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Tag Archive: Aid in Dying

  1. Presidential Campaign Forum Raises End-of-Life Options Issue

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    (Portland, OR – Feb. 4, 2016) In response to a unique question about end-of-life care options raised during a CNN presidential town hall last night by terminally ill supporter Jim Kinhan, Compassion & Choices Action Network announced today it will host a teleconference on the issue before the Nevada caucus. The teleconference will take place on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. EST/5pm PST, at a location still to be determined.

    Below is a partial transcript of the presidential town hall exchange between Hillary Clinton and Jim Kinhan, an 81-year-old supporter of Compassion & Choices Action Network dying from colon cancer, who wrote an op-ed about it published in the Concord Monitor.

    KINHAN: “… I wonder what leadership you could offer within an executive role that might help advance the respectful conversation that is needed around this personal choice that people may make, as we age and deal with health issues or be the caregivers of those people, to help enhance their end of life with dignity.”

    HILLARY CLINTON: “… this is the first time I’ve been asked that question … And I thank you for it, because we need to have a conversation in our country … So it is a crucial issue that people deserve to understand from their own ethical, religious, faith-based perspective … I want, as president, to try to catalyze that debate because I believe you’re right, this is going to become an issue more and more.”

    “Options for end-of-life care are a big deal for millions of older Americans like Jim Kinhan and their baby boomer caregivers,” said Compassion & Choices Action Network President Barbara Coombs Lee, who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “Virtually every national and state poll shows voters from all political persuasions and demographic groups want autonomy to choose from the full range of end-of-life care options, including hospice, palliative care and medical aid in dying.”

    “Most people want to die at home and avoid futile, painful, unwanted medical treatments that only extend their dying process and destroy their quality of life,” added Coombs Lee. “We are hosting this teleconference so journalists, politicians and voters unfamiliar with end-of-life care options can learn about and discuss this issue.”

  2. Inside Scoop: Let the Candidates Know Where you Stand

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    By Mark Dann

    Hillary? Ted? Bernie? Or the Donald?

    As we all know, the 2016 race for the White House is underway. And we have a perfect opportunity to talk with the presidential campaigns about what is important to you.

    As a member of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) – a 72-member coalition of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations that serve older Americans – Compassion & Choices will sponsor Seniors Decide 2016, the nation’s only forum where all of the presidential candidates are invited to address issues that are important to America’s older adults.

    We want you to participate. Head to the Seniors Decide website to ask the candidates about their view on end of life issues. Before we head into the voting booth, the candidates need to tell us how they plan on increasing care and choice at the end of life, whether they support hospice care for people who are still trying to cure their ailments, and what they’ll do to stop unwanted medical treatment. 

    The event will be held on Wednesday, February 17 at 2:30 pm ET in Washington DC, and will be live-streamed nationwide.

    The forum will take place right before Super Tuesday, when 12 states will hold their presidential primaries or caucuses.Let the candidates know that you’ll be watching by sending them a question at SeniorsDecide.org.

    Seniors Decide will post a list of questions to show the candidates what Americans nationwide are concerned about. Let’s make sure end-of-life care is represented.

    This is going to be an exciting election year and we need to hear your voice!

  3. End-of-Life Care: Are We Ready for Real Reform

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    By Kim Callinan, Chief Program Officer

    Over the past several decades, our unprecedented medical advances have outpaced our progress in ensuring that people with advanced illnesses have the comfort and quality of life they deserve as they near the end of their lives. Most people who indicate their end-of-life care preferences choose to focus on alleviating pain and suffering, but the default mode of hospital treatment is acute care, concludes a September 2014 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report entitled Dying in America. Why has this unacceptable situation happened?

    As a society, we have always shied away from talking about death — despite the fact that it is an eventual outcome for all of us. Only one of every six adults (17%) actually have talked with their doctor or healthcare provider about their end-of-life priorities and values, according to a September 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation Survey.

    Unfortunately, most doctors aren’t any more prepared to have these conversations than are their patients. Most physicians don’t go into medical school to help people have a better death. Even if they did, most medical school curriculums don’t adequately teach doctors how to address end-of-life care. As best-selling author Dr. Atul Gawande so eloquently wrote in his book, Being Mortal, “doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.”

    What’s important to understand is that the American public’s sharply increased interest in end-of-life choice and care is not just about the passage of medical aid-in-dying legislation in our nation’s largest and most diverse state, California — it’s about a movement to demand choice and a cry for better options and improved care in our end-of-life health care system. To make this goal a reality, Compassion & Choices put together a federal policy agenda that is based on the IOM’s Dying in America report outlining the systemic crisis in end-of-life care. Think of the IOM report as the diagnoses of the problem and Compassion & Choices’ federal policy agenda as the treatment. Our agenda covers a range of issues from hospice and palliative care, to changing perverse payment structures that rewardunwanted medical treatment, to professional education of health care providers about end-of-life issues.

    If you are interested in learning more, please join my colleague, Dr. David Grube, national medical director at Compassion & Choices; Brian Lindberg, executive director, Consumer Coalition for Quality Health Care; and me at theAmerican Society on Aging’s annual conference. Our session, “Come to Patient Centered Care: Translating Patients’ Wishes Into Federal and State Policy,” is on March 21 at 9:00am. If you have not yet registered, you can get a $50 discount to attend the conference by entering the promotion code PRSNTR50 when you register. We hope to see you there!

    This blog was originally published by the American Society on Aging. Click  here to read it on the ASA website.

  4. Diane Rehm Pledges in New Book to Advocate for Medical Aid in Dying

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    By Sean Crowley
    The Washington Post today published the first interview with syndicated radio show host Diane Rehm about her new book, On My Own, which goes on sale Feb. 2. The book chronicles her late husband, John Rehm’s, prolonged death from Parkinson’s disease in June 2014 and her grieving process since then.

    In the book, Diane pledges after she retires on Dec. 31 to work with Compassion & Choices to help pass laws that authorize terminally ill adults facing unbearable suffering to request medication they can self-ingest to die more gently.

    Unfortunately, medical aid in dying is not an authorized end-of-life option in Maryland, where John spent the last two years of his life in a nursing home.

    As a result, he decided to voluntarily stop eating and drinking (VSED), a medical practice that is authorized in every jurisdiction nationwide. While this option enables some people to die peacefully, Diane says it took 10 agonizing days before John finally died utilizing VSED.

    Below is an excerpt of the Washington Post story titled: “Diane Rehm’s next act: Using her famed voice to fight for the good death.”

    “‘I rage at a system that would not allow John to be helped toward his own death,’ Rehm writes of watching her spouse of 54 years wither away …”

    Below are a few select quotes from On My Own.


    “Why should it be that only a few states allow aid in dying with help from a trained physician willing to offer the ultimate gift?”

    p. 90

    “ … when I am no longer employed as a broadcaster … I will definitely want to contribute in some ways to Compassion & Choices, a national organization working to give people the right to choose to die with medical assistance. I so strongly believe in our right to choose when we die, if our illness is beyond any hope of bringing back a fullness of health. I know and respect those who argue that suffering is a part of living, but I do not agree and will do my best to speak out. I myself don’t want to suffer, nor do I want my family to see me suffer. When I believe the time has come for me to say farewell to this beautiful world, I will do so.”

    p. 142-143

    “Each and every one of us should have the right to choose … Let each of us make our own decision … “

    “The individual might or might not choose to take the medication, but—as has been said many times by Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, which lobbied for the groundbreaking law in Oregon—having that medication in hand provides a sense of comfort and control over one’s own life.”

    To read the Washington Post story, click here.

  5. California Law Withstands Referendum Threat

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    California’s new aid-in-dying law remains safe: A group aiming to overturn the End of Life Option Act failed to collect enough signatures to get their referendum on the November ballot.

    “An overwhelming majority of Californians supports the End of Life Option Act,” said Compassion & Choices California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus. “Opponents simply could not inspire the people of California to take away options for people who are dying.”

    Despite backing from the Catholic Church, which encouraged parishioners to sign petitions during mass, the effort fell short of collecting 365,880 signatures by the January 4 deadline. According to the California secretary of state’s website, the group that filed the petition raised less than $100,000 to try to overturn it. (more…)

  6. C&C Offers Perspective on Aging Issues

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    As the largest segment of America’s population advances in age – and increasingly takes care of elderly parents – shortcomings in the healthcare system specifically affecting those nearing the end of life have become harder to ignore. So one focus of C&C’s federal policy efforts is to better serve the needs of aging Americans. (more…)

  7. Oregon AG Urged Not to Waive Merger Review for Catholic Hospitals in 6 States

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    (Portland, OR – Jan. 14, 2016) Thirteen public interest organizations have written Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum urging her to reject a request for a waiver from the standard process for reviewing merger transactions by the nation’s 6th largest nonprofit hospital systemProvidence Health & Services, and St. Joseph Health.

    “This proposed transaction involves eight hospitals across Oregon, and a total of almost 50 hospitals across six states [Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, Texas, Washington],” the groups said in the letter sent to AG’s office on Jan. 8. “Even absent the transfer of assets, significant changes in health care delivery are likely to occur…it behooves the Attorney General to undertake the full review process to ensure that this transaction preserves existing health care services and benefits the public interest.”

    St. Joseph and Providence are both Catholic health systems. Catholic hospitals must typically follow the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The ERDs many forbid reproductive health services, including all birth control methods, sterilization, miscarriage management, abortion, the least invasive treatments for ectopic pregnancies, and some infertility treatments. The ERDs provide no exceptions for risks to a patient’s health or even life.

    In addition, the ERDs limit medical end-of-life decision making of patients by restricting options for advanced directives, surrogate decision-making, and withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures in Catholic healthcare settings. Providence and St. Joseph operate hospitals in four states – California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington – that authorize medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option for terminally ill adults.

    “Every patient who enters a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office, or any other medical setting expects that she or he will receive treatment information and services that meet the standard of care,” the letter notes. “Yet, the restrictions the ERDs place on Catholic hospitals are severe limitations that violate basic evidence-based standards of care – accepted medical practice and as adopted by the major professional medical associations.”

    When Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, WA affiliated in 2013 with the Franciscan [Catholic] Health System, doctors at Harrison were forbidden from performing “elective” abortions or writing prescriptions for aid-in-dying medication to terminally ill adults who request it.

    Or. Rev. Stat. 65.807(1) requires that the Attorney General conduct a public hearing on the proposed transaction,” the letter concludes. “The purpose of the public meeting is to receive input and comments from the immediate community to be directly affected. This critical step in the review process should not be waived.”

    The California Attorney General’s office has rejected a similar waiver request.

    The following groups signed the letter:

    National Health Law Program

    ACLU of Oregon

    Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon

    Catholics for Choice

    Compassion & Choices

    Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund

    Legal Voice


    NARAL Pro Choice Oregon

    Northwest Health Law Advocates

    Physicians for Reproductive Health

    Pride Foundation

    Western States Center

    You can read the full letter by clicking here.

  8. Petition Drive to Overturn California Aid-in-Dying Law Fails

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    (Los Angeles, CA – Jan. 5, 2016) An attempt to overturn the state’s new aid-in-dying law has failed to collect enough signatures to qualify a referendum for the November ballot, according to news reports.

    “An overwhelming majority of Californians supports the End of Life Option Act,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices, which led the statewide campaign to pass the law. “Opponents simply could not inspire the people of California to take away options for people who are dying.”

    Despite support from the Catholic Church, which encouraged parishioners to sign petitions during mass, the mostly volunteer effort fell short of collecting 365,880 signatures by the January 4 deadline to qualify for a referendum. According to the secretary of state’s website, the group that filed the petition raised less than $100,000 to try to overturn it.

    Once it takes effect, The End of Life Option Act will give mentally capable, terminally ill adults facing intolerable suffering in the dying process the ability to ask their doctor for medication they can take to die gently in their sleep. California lawmakers passed the bipartisan law last fall during a special session on healthcare and it will not take effect until 90 days after the session ends sometime this year.

    Compassion & Choices recently launched a bilingual campaign to educate terminally ill Californians, families and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of the End of Life Option law.

    “We are utilizing all our resources to ensure every Californian has meaningful access, through their healthcare providers, to clearly understand the benefits and requirements of medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option,” said Kat West, national director of policy & programs at Compassion & Choices. “We are educating both doctors and the public about the full range of options to relieve suffering at the end of life, including hospice, palliative care and medical aid in dying.”


    Terminally ill Californians and their families, physicians, and pharmacists can call a free hotline, 800-893-4548, to access bilingual information on the End of Life Option Act. Through this hotline, practicing physicians will be able to access Compassion & Choices’ free Doc2Doc consultation program to speak to doctors with years of experience in end-of-life care, including medical aid in dying. Pharmacists will also be able to access the Pharmacist2Pharmacist consultation program. For more information, visit www.endoflifeoption.org.

    The news of the failed referendum effort was well received by End of Life Option Act supporter Elizabeth Wallner, a single mom from Sacramento living with stage IV colon cancer that has spread to her liver and lungs.

    “Death doesn’t scare me,” she said. “What scares me more is to have my only son and my family watch me die slowly and painfully. I don’t want this agonizingly traumatic image to be their last memory of me.”

  9. Tucson Unanimously Passes Resolution Supporting Aid in Dying

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    (Tucson, AZ – December 15, 2015) Tuesday, the Tucson City Council, including Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, approved a memorial resolution supporting aid in dying by a unanimous 7 – 0 vote. Medical aid in dying is already and authorized end-of-life option in 5 state including, most recently, California. 

    The memorial resolution will be presented to the Arizona Senate, urging legislators to support an aid in dying law in the upcoming legislative session. This effort was spearheaded by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Councilpersons, Steve Kozachick, Karin Uhlich and Richard Fimbres. 

    Although the memorial does not change the existing law prohibiting aid in dying, it recognizes the growing public support for expanding end-of-life options to include medical aid in dying.

    The Memorial affirms that the City of Tucson:

    • Respects the diversity of perspectives of its citizens,
    • Supports equal protection within the diversity of perspectives on end-of-life decisions
    • Recognizes the practice of Aid in Dying as a legitimate individual liberty

    Bisbee was the first Arizona municipality to publicly affirm support of aid in dying by passing a resolution of their own in September, 2015. After Tuesday’s vote, Tucson becomes the largest city in Arizona to publically recognize the rights of terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have access to a full range of end-of-life options, including aid in dying. 

    Tucson joins municipalities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, which passed similar resolutions in the run up to that state adopting the End-of-Life Option Act earlier this year. Compassion & Choices applauds this effort by the Tucson City Council and is optimistic that the Arizona Legislature will respond by making aid-in-dying legislation a top priority in the coming year.

  10. Groups Concerned Walgreens’ Collaboration with Catholic Health Provider Will Limit Consumer Access to Important Medical Services

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    (Portland, OR – Dec. 14, 2015) Nineteen public interest organizations that advocate for patients’ rights and comprehensive health care access are concerned about the impact on health care consumers of a collaboration between the nation’s largest drug store chain, Walgreens, and a Catholic health care provider to open up to 25 in-store health clinics in Oregon and Washington.

    In a letter emailed to Walgreens today, the 19 organizations sought to learn whether religious doctrine will limit access to important medical services, information, and referrals at the clinics operated by the Catholic health care provider, Providence Health & Services, and its affiliate, Swedish Health Services, and will limit Walgreens’s pharmacies’ ability to fill prescriptions. Providence Health & Services will own and operate the proposed clinics and employees of Providence Health & Services and Swedish Health Services with staff them.

    As a Catholic health care system, Providence Health & Services is required to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. These directives forbid or severely restrict critical reproductive and end-of-life health care services at Catholic health facilities, including contraception, abortions, fertility treatments, vasectomies, tubal ligations, aid in dying, and advance directives that are contrary to Catholic teachings.

    “In our states we have consistently seen that when secular entities join with religious health systems, the services, information or referrals provided at the secular entity become limited by religious doctrine,” wrote the groups, which include Compassion & Choices, the nation’s leading advocacy organization for expanding choice in end-of-life care. “Customers and patients have the right to information regarding all of their options in order to make educated health care decisions. How does Walgreens plan to protect its customers’ rights to receive information about all available reproductive and end-of-life health information?”

    When Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, Washington affiliated with a religious health system in 2013, doctors at Harrison were no longer able to prescribe medications to assist with aid in dying, as allowed by Washington’s Death with Dignity law. When Swedish Health Services affiliated with Providence Health & Services in 2012, it stopped providing what it terms “elective” abortions at Swedish facilities.

    Some religious health systems even restrict the information and referrals that their health providers are allowed to give to patients. Further, adherence to the ERDs increases the likelihood that LGBTQ individuals and their families will face discrimination in seeking to access health care services consistent with their medical needs.

    “We appreciate Walgreens’s objective to provide customers with convenient access to basic health services. However, as Providence Health & Services is a religious health system, we are very concerned that these clinics will limit patients’ access to important health services,” wrote the groups, including Compassion & Choices, the nation’s leading end-of-life choice advocacy organization. “Customers or patients who request services at these clinics or at Walgreens’s pharmacies are entitled to assurances that the services, information, and referrals they receive will not be restricted by religious doctrine.”

    The following groups signed the letter:

    American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon
    American Civil Liberties Union of Washington
    Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)
    Basic Rights Oregon
    Compassion & Choices
    Gender Justice League
    Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
    Legal Voice
    NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon
    NARAL Pro-Choice Washington
    National Health Law Program
    Northwest Health Law Advocates
    Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health
    Pierce County AIDS Foundation
    Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon
    Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest & Hawaii
    Pride Foundation
    Western States Center