End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Posts TaggedAid in Dying

Out-of-Touch Legislators Vote for “Physician Imprisonment Act” Despite Opposition from 73% of Montanans

Contact: Emily Bentley, ebentley@compassionandchoices.org
406-546-6552

By Compassion & Choices staff
April 11, 2013

(Helena, MT) – HB505, an extreme bill that would eliminate Montana’s currently legal practice of aid in dying and make it a felony, was blasted to the Senate Floor this afternoon on a 31-17 procedural vote. The blast motion overrides the vote of the Judiciary Committee, which tabled the bill last week. Opponents of aid in dying worked the system to get a second chance to pass the Physician Imprisonment Act, which, according to a recent poll, 73 percent of Montanans oppose.

The following statement can be attributed to Emily Bentley, Campaign Manager, Compassion & Choices Montana.

“We are disappointed that the Montana Senate did not respect the Judiciary Committee’s ability to decide the merits of this bill based on the testimony senators heard on March 26. The bill was tabled with bi-partisan opposition in committee. Montana senators have much more important things to work on at this critical time in the legislature than intimidating compassionate doctors. This bill undercuts Montanans’ expectations of personal autonomy without government interference. It parachutes big government into families’ most personal moments and criminalizes compassionate medical care. We will continue to work to defeat this bill because it would deny suffering, terminally ill patients the ability to choose aid in dying, by imprisoning doctors who support their patients’ decisions. We urge the full Senate to block this bill on its merits when it is considered.”

The overwhelming majority of Montanans, to the tune of 82 percent, believe that end-of-life choices are private decisions that should be made without government interference, according to an April 2013 poll of likely voters conducted by Global Strategy Group.

A memo released by Global Strategy Group reveals that “these data suggest that legislators will pay a real price for supporting efforts to penalize and criminalize doctors for doing so. Ultimately, Montanans support the choice for others, want to be able to make the legal choice for themselves, and believe there is no role for government when it comes to making that choice.”

Nearly three-quarters of voters across party lines oppose HB505, which would send doctors to prison for providing medication that would allow a terminally ill patient to end his or her own life in a humane and dignified way. Sixty seven percent of voters say they would be less likely to vote for a legislator who supported such a proposal, including 53 percent who said they would be much less likely.

 

Compassion & Choices Montana Unsurprised That Latest Polling Confirms Support for End-of-Life Choices Regardless of Party Affiliation

by Compassion & Choices staff
April 8, 2013

73% of Montanans Oppose “Physician Imprisonment Act”

(Helena) The overwhelming majority of Montanans, to the tune of 82 percent, believe that end-of-life choices are private decisions that should be made without government interference, according to an April 2013 poll of likely voters conducted by Global Strategy Group.

A memo released by Global Strategy Group reveals that “Voters want to know they have a legal option to end their own life in a humane and dignified way: More than 7 of 10 voters (71%) say that if they were terminally ill and in severe distress, they would want the legal option to end their own life in a humane and dignified way.” The memo further goes on to say, “Broad majorities of Montanans strongly support legal end-of-life choices and strongly reject any efforts to criminalize doctors for complying with their patients’ wishes. Furthermore, these data suggest that legislators will pay a real price for supporting efforts to penalize and criminalize doctors for doing so. Ultimately, Montanans support the choice for others, want to be able to make the legal choice for themselves, and believe there is no role for government when it comes to making that choice.”

Nearly three-quarters of voters across party lines oppose HB505, which would send doctors to prison for providing medication that would allow the patient to end his or her own life in a humane and dignified way. 67 percent of voters say they would be less likely to vote for a legislator who supported such a proposal, including 53 percent who said they would be much less likely.

Emily Bentley, Campaign Manager for Compassion & Choices Montana, says, “This latest polling is consistent with what we know about Montana values. People in our state agree that privacy is important and individual freedom is worth protecting. They do not want to see their doctor imprisoned for providing what they believe is good medicine. Lawmakers should pay attention.”

Compassion & Choices Applauds Montana Committee’s Rejection of “Physician Imprisonment Act”

by Compassion & Choices Staff
April 3, 2013

HB505 Fails to Clear Senate Judiciary Committee on Tie Vote

(Helena, MT) – HB505, an extreme bill that would degenerate Montana’s currently legal practice of aid in dying into a felony, failed to clear the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. The bill was tabled on a tie vote, 6-6. The following statement can be attributed to Emily Bentley, Campaign Manager, Compassion & Choices Montana.

“This bill is a gross intrusion into the physician-patient relationship: it would stifle discussions of end-of-life options and prohibit physicians from providing aid in dying to terminally ill patients who request it. HB 505 would deny suffering, terminally ill Montanans the freedom to choose aid in dying because it would imprison doctors who support their patients’ decisions to end their suffering. Montanans overwhelmingly support aid in dying. This should be the end of the Physician Imprisonment Act.”

Dedicated to a Cause

by Barbara Coombs Lee
March 26, 2013

Last Wednesday, March 20, the Connecticut Assembly’s Public Health Committee began its consideration of a bill modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. What a day! In my 22 years of legislative work, this hearing was the most grueling — and the most inspiring — I have ever witnessed.  Compassion & Choices volunteers and supporters showed themselves to be as passionate, judicious, intelligent and dedicated as citizens can ever be. They are committed to a world of justice and mercy. And they trust in democracy to make it so.

They came because they want choice and control in their own mortal endings. But mostly, they came for others who could not — their neighbors and loved ones and people unknown to them. They came that others need not suffer against their will, and that all may have the opportunity to face death in comfort and peace of mind. My heart swelled as I sat with them and heard the witness of these decent, altruistic, dedicated people.

The day began early, as aid-in-dying supporters travelled hours to Hartford by bus, car and train to be in line by 7:00 am.  Sign-up began at 9, but being in line by 7 helped ensure an opportunity to speak. The hearing began at 10 and our bill, Compassionate Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients (HB 6645), came up about noon. Representative Betsy Ritter, the bill’s chief sponsor, spoke with eloquence and authority. Other legislators followed, and then the committee shifted gears and heard unrelated bills.

For many hours our supporters kept each other’s spirits up as they sat patiently through testimony about nursing technicians, dental hygienists, something called advance practice collaboration agreements, and tattoo artist licensure.

Some of our valiant and dedicated supporters just had to leave when their bus departed or their backs gave out. But others stayed until 1 am for their chance to speak. Yes, you read that right — they endured this process from 7 am until 1 am without complaint!!

Here are a just few of the heroes:

Shannon Sanford, a Yale-educated nurse who did her masters thesis on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.  ”Compassion & Choices were great to me when I was working on my thesis.  I can stay to the bitter end,” she told us. She had to, attending the entire 15-hour hearing as the last person to testify at approximately 1:30 am.

It fell to Shannon to present the committee with letters from all over the state. The stack was nearly a foot high, making a thump on the table.

Placing her hand on this tower of paper, Shannon said:  ”I brought my friends who are all in support of House Bill 6645″.  A legislator asked, ”I have to know, how many people signed letters?”  Shannon had a snappy response despite sitting 15 hours in a hearing room:  ”I stopped counting after 1500.”

Hunt Williams traveled over an hour to the state Capitol and waited twelve more to tell his story.

Hunt told the committee the story of his manslaughter arrest for merely cleaning a weapon his terminally ill friend, John Welles, used when he was dying of cancer. Only due to the overwhelming support and advocacy in his community of Cornwall, Connecticut, was Hunt sentenced to accelerated rehabilitation, a process that took over a year. The committee and the entire room sat in complete silence as they listened to Hunt’s riveting experience.

“Thank you sir, thank you for giving testimony.  I think I was taken aback by what you had to say,” a stunned co-chair of the committee, Senator Terry Gerratana, said.

Gloria Blick, aged 91, is a passionate advocate for end-of-life choice, as is her son Dr. Gary Blick.

When called to testify, Gloria and Dr. Blick held hands and both walked confidently to the microphone and sat together supporting each other.  Luckily, Gloria has not had a significant illness, but with her active volunteerism in the senior community, she has witnessed first-hand the pain and suffering of those at end of life, and it disturbs her greatly.

She made it clear to the committee she had been too active and too well to see her life end in a slow, relentless spiral of deterioration. Nor would she want her family, including Dr. Blick, to suffer unnecessarily with her.  ”I would never want to do that to my son,” she said.

Lillian Kaplan sat for hours waiting for her opportunity to speak out in favor of HB 6645, offering moving testimony regarding the difficult and painful death of her son-in-law Steven Kahn, who wanted to die on his own terms.  Lillian read into testimony a letter Steven wrote prior to his death.

“I am writing to you so you will not have to wonder…I’m not asking for your approval, only that you honor my judgment,” he wrote.

At the conclusion of her testimony, the Senate Chair of the Committee respectfully asked her age:  ”Well, in a year and a half I will be 100.”

Lillian, Gloria, Gary and Shannon and so many others showed themselves to be amazing and inspiring advocates. It is an honor to be able to work beside them for choice and control at life’s end.

Right to Die: Comforting Control at the End of the Line

by Ilene Kaplan
Hartford Courant
January 11, 2013

Personal freedom, a core value among all Americans, means control of our lives at all times. We cherish and protect personal choice. After a lifetime exercising this freedom, people should not be denied control when excruciating illness is poised to claim their body.

Terminally ill patients want control at the end of their life, just as they’ve always controlled their other health decisions. They want assurance that if suffering and indignity make living unbearable, they have the means to peacefully end it.

Legislation has been introduced in the General Assembly that would allow a physician to prescribe medication to a mentally competent, terminally ill patient who can self-administer the medication to bring about a peaceful death. I hope, after appropriate debate, such a bill will be passed. It is time we give grown-ups the freedom to choose and let physicians willing to provide this choice feel safe in doing so. Connecticut needs a rational public policy for every end-of-life option.

In states where it is legal, aid in dying provides great comfort not only for the very few who actually use it, but for many others in just knowing the choice exists. For patients staring an unbearable death in the face — and those close to them witnessing this anguished decline — the option to end their suffering in a peaceful way is an enormous comfort. It is not for the government or anyone else to say that is wrong. More