We sent the following message to our supporters in the Baltimore, Maryland area last week:
As you may know, we’ve spent this summer planning how we can pass Maryland’s End of Life Option Act when the legislature returns to session in 2017. And now, we’re organizing the grassroots teams we’ll need to succeed next year.
I’d like to invite you to a meeting for supporters of medical aid in dying led by our Baltimore-based advocates. The meeting will be hosted by our Baltimore Action Team, which coordinates our strategic activities in the area. An action team is a local group of supporters who work to build support for end-of-life options in their community.
WHAT: Baltimore Action Team meeting and discussion WHERE: Waverly Branch of the Enoch Pratt Library, 400 E 33rd St, Baltimore WHEN: Saturday, September 24 at 10:15 a.m.
This meeting will give you the opportunity to meet other advocates in the area, share your personal stories, and find out what you can do to improve Marylanders’ control over their end-of-life care. You’ll also have the opportunity to join the Baltimore Action Team.
Joining our campaign as a member of the action team will allow you to have a close-up view of local activities and a voice in our strategy in the region.
Last night, the Cambridge City Council became the first in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pass a resolution supporting medical aid in dying. The vote was nine to zero. Mayor Denise Simmons also voted in favor. The resolution will be transmitted to the Governor and to Senators and Representatives from Cambridge in the Legislature on September 15; it calls upon lawmakers to pass a medical aid-in-dying law, which will be reintroduced by Rep. Lou Kafka in January.
“We commend the Cambridge City Council for their leadership and wisdom in making this public statement,” said Marie Manis, Massachusetts Campaign Manager for Compassion & Choices. “This resolution amplifies the voices of Cambridge voters who overwhelmingly support medical aid in dying, and will inspire councils across our state to do the same.”
This campaign to pass the Cambridge resolution was spearheaded by long-time Cambridge residents Alice Howard and Margot Kempers. The resolution was sponsored by Vice-Mayor Marc McGovern and co-sponsored by City Council members Dennis Carlone and Leland Cheung.
Medical aid in dying allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with 6 months or less to live to request and receive a prescription they can self-administer, when and whether they choose, to shorten a dying process that becomes unbearable. It has a combined 30 years of safe practice with no incidents of abuse in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and California. It will also appear on the Colorado ballot as a citizen initiative in November of this year.
The Resolution’s rationale statements include the following:
[A]dvances in science and technology have created medical interventions that often prolong the dying process and increase suffering; and
[A]bsent the availability of aid in dying, patients and loved ones in Massachusetts have become so desperate to relieve suffering caused by terminal illness that they turn to violent means; and
[N]ineteen years of transparent reporting and study of aid-in-dying practice in Oregon demonstrates the utility and safety of the practice in upholding a patient’s right to self-determination; and
Compassion & Choices Massachusetts praised this vote by the Cambridge City Council and the citizens who made it happen, and expects to see similar grassroots efforts in other cities throughout the Commonwealth. Compassion & Choices Massachusetts continues its campaign for the Compassionate Aid in Dying law in the legislature.
We sent the following email, part of a monthly series, to our Doctors for Dignity last week:
A recent survey shows 54% of Maryland physicians support medical aid in dying. The survey was pursuant to a resolution from the Maryland State Medical Society House of Delegates. 65% percent favored a position of either support (50%) or neutrality (15%) toward Maryland legislation to authorize medical aid in dying. These results are consistent with physician surveys in other states and nationwide.
This new handbook will help you begin the conversations that lead to policy change within your state, local or specialty medical association. You’ll learn facts and tips that will help you communicate with confidence. The handbook includes a step-by-step guide to changing your society’s policy position.
This month, Compassion & Choices Medical Director David Grube, M.D. answers the following:
Q. In states where medical aid in dying is authorized some physicians choose not to participate. What is the physician’s professional responsibility to her or his patient?
A: The definition of medical professionalism is to put the patient first.
Shared medical decision making requires the competent and compassionate doctor to listen, to teach, to explain, and to offer standards of care to the patient. If a medical treatment or procedure does not fall within the personal beliefs of a practitioner, she or he is obliged to refer the patient to another physician for counsel and care. (An example in family medicine might be a referral for consideration for a circumcision if the attending physician does not believe that it is in the best interest of the child. Recall, the referral is not for the procedure, but for the consideration of it.)
All referrals should be timely and urgent; if there is one thing that the dying patient does not have, it is time. If a terminal patient might consider medical aid in dying, I recommend that this patient and his or her family have a conversation about this with their personal physician well in advance of the need. They must be prepared for the possibility that their primary care physician will not support them. If a physician practices medicine within a limited religious ideology or institution, that should be disclosed to the patient at an early visit.
Thanks for all you do,
Rebecca Thoman, M.D.
Campaign Manager, Doctors for Dignity
P.S. If you had this message forwarded to you and you are not a member of Doctors for Dignity, please click here to join.
We sent the following message to our Washington D.C. supporters last week:
As you know, our campaign to expand end-of-life options here in the District of Columbia has been moving forward at full steam. We now expect a committee vote on the Death with Dignity Act, which would authorize medical aid in dying in the nation’s capital, later this month!
Before the vote, we need volunteers like you to urge your councilmembers to support this important bill. So we’re holding a lobby day where you can tell your councilmember why medical aid in dying is important to you and ask them to support the Death with Dignity Act.
WHAT: Compassion & Choices Washington DC Lobby Day WHEN: Thursday, September 22 at 9:00 a.m. WHERE: Room 104, The Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC
We’ll meet in the morning for a volunteer breakfast, and then hold a press conference featuring Dan Diaz, husband of the late Brittany Maynard. After Brittany was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she and Dan moved from California to Oregon to access the state’s medical aid-in-dying law. Dan has since become a national advocate for expanding end-of-life options.
In the afternoon, we’ll break into small groups for meetings with the councilmembers, and supporters like you can ask for their vote.
Feel free to prepare your personal stories in advance of your visit. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is for lawmakers to hear personal stories about why this issue means so much to all of us.
Harlan Seymour is the widower, and Mavis Prall-Cohen is the sister, of California End of Life Option Act advocate Jennifer Glass. She died of lung cancer on August 11, 2015, at her San Mateo home by utilizing palliative sedation. The procedure involved medicating her into a coma until she died five long days later.
Jennifer would have preferred the option of medical aid in dying, to be in possession of, near the end of her life, a doctor’s prescription for medication that would allow her, when she was ready, to die peacefully and quickly. Jennifer’s advocacy for medical aid in dying during the last 17 months of her life eventually paid off. Two months after her death, on October 5, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act.
What is the one thing our society can do to improve end-of-life care for all of us?
Our Jennifer thought deeply about this question during the last two and a half years of her life following her diagnosis of advanced cancer. Here are Jennifer’s own words from a story she wrote published by The Huffington Post on March 10, 2015: I Have Cancer — and I Want the Option to Die on My Terms
“One of the most debilitating things about life-threatening illness is the fear that comes with it. Fear because so much is out of your control.
“If you can take fear out of the equation, even a little bit, you can think more clearly, make better decisions, and — with luck — find a path to peace.”
We as a society should follow Jennifer’s lead in fearing less and changing our culture to allow individuals to take control of their own end-of-life care. As Jennifer said:
“I’m doing everything I can to extend my life.
“No one should have the right to prolong my death.”
Harlan Seymour (L) and Jennifer Glass (R).
How would ensuring terminally ill people control their end-of-life care improve it?
Jennifer advocated for medical aid-in-dying laws because she passionately believed all terminally ill adults should have this option, so they can pass peacefully at home, surrounded by their loved ones, and avoid an agonizing, prolonged death.
“I don’t want to drown in my own lung fluid, under cold, hospital lights.”
“My home is where I feel safe.
“It’s where we have become a family.
“My home is where I want to die.”
Tragically, California’s End of Life Option Act did not take effect until June 9, 2016, less than a year after Jennifer’s needlessly painful and traumatic death. Medical aid in dying is an essential tool in the end-of-life care toolkit that should be integrated with hospice and palliative care. In fact, states that have authorized medical aid in dying have earlier and more frequent utilization of hospice and palliative care.
How would improving end-of-life care benefit terminally ill people?
Terminally ill adults who have the option of medical aid in dying get a great sense of relief that enables them to live their remaining days without fearing they will die in agony and traumatize their loved ones.
“There would be great comfort in knowing that I could legally request and receive a prescription for aid-in-dying medication that I could take to end my life peacefully, at home, if my suffering becomes unbearable.
“Having this option would allow me to live more joyfully in whatever time I have left.”
Most Minnesotans agree terminally ill adults should have the option of medical aid in dying, according to two State Fair polls conducted by the state Senate and state House of Representatives. In the Senate poll, 68% percent of respondents said they support medical aid in dying; the the House poll, support is 67%. In both polls, only small minorities (22%) opposed this end-of-life option.
The polling results are significant because the Compassionate Care Act (SF 1880/HF 2095) was introduced in 2015 and will be introduced again in 2017.
“This polling is a clear signal for state lawmakers that their constituents want the option of medical aid in dying so that terminally ill adults with no hope for a cure can choose to shorten the dying process should their suffering become unbearable,” said Janet Conn of Edina, a long time Compassion & Choices supporter and advocate.
Minnesota Senate’s poll asked fair goers their opinion on this end-of-life care issue:
“When a mentally competent adult is dying from an incurable and irreversible medical condition that is expected to end the individual’s life within six months, do you think this individual should be allowed to obtain from a physician a prescription for medication that may be self-administered to end that person’s life?”
Compassion & Choices New York supporters received the following email message this week:
I’m AmandaCavanaugh, Outreach Coordinator for Compassion & Choices’ campaign in New York. This week I’ve been staffing our table at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.
In the past two days alone, I’ve spoken with more than 1,400 people! It’s an unprecedented audience for our message. More than 30 volunteers have shared information and their stories to recruit people across the state and helped more than 1,200 New Yorkers send postcards of support to their state legislators.
We’ve seen so much interest that we had to order more materials and can barely keep up with all the interested and supportive fairgoers.
This isn’t just my job, this cause is personal. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2011, my partner passed away at the age of 29 when our life together was just getting started. Her final days were filled with unnecessary pain and suffering. Unfortunately, these painful days can sometimes cloud my memories of our time together because they were so painful for all of us.
Many fairgoers have told me stories about the final days of their loved ones, and too many of those stories sound like mine.
Just yesterday, I met a doctor whose mother passed away from the same cancer that took Brittany Maynard’s life. With tears in his eyes, he told me how committed he was to helping pass this important legislation. Moments like that make the hard work we’re doing here worth it.
Please click the link below to support our outreach programs like the fair that help us bring our message to the widest possible audience:
We’ve got another week here at the fair, which means plenty of time to send more postcards, share stories with people who may not have considered the issue before, and recruit more volunteers. And none of that would be possible without your continued support.
Compassion & Choices supporters in Washington DC received this message yesterday.
As you may know, our campaign to authorize medical aid in dying here in the nation’s capital has gained new energy in recent months and there’s lots of important work to do. The top priority right now is organizing the grassroots teams that we’ll need to convince the council to pass the Death with Dignity Act.
We have an opportunity to get started next week at an important meeting where we’ll lay out our strategy for the next few weeks. We’ll discuss how you and your loved ones can help our campaign to expand end-of-life options.
WHAT: Compassion & Choices DC Action Team Meeting WHERE: 1001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 230, Washington, DC WHEN:Thursday, September 8, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
At the meeting, we’ll go over what you can do to help our campaign here in DC, including reaching out to potential supporters, leading neighborhood volunteer teams in all eight wards, talking to your councilmember and more.
You’ll also have the opportunity to join the District of Columbia Action Team. An action team is a local group of supporters who meet regularly and work to build support for end-of-life options in and around their communities. Joining our campaign as a member of the action team will allow you to have a close-up view of local activities and a voice in our strategy for the district.
We are thrilled to announce that today a Riverside Superior Court ruled that the new medical aid-in-dying law in California can continue to give terminally ill, mentally capable people with a prognosis of six months or less another end-of-life option. Compassion & Choices was the only advocacy group to weigh in on an effort to overturn the law and we urged the court to reject the plaintiffs’ motion, submitting a friend-of-the-court brief in July. The judge ruled the case can proceed in December but for now, the law remains protected.
Just days after the California End of Life Option Act took effect in June, the Life Legal Defense Foundation, American Academy of Medical Ethics and some physicians filed a suit to overturn it.
Compassion & Choices’ legal team worked closely with John Kappos, a Newport Beach partner in the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, to block the injunction filed by opponents that would have also suspended the End of Life Option Act as they attempted to overturn the law.
Had the injunction been successful, it would have immediately blocked physicians from participating in medical aid in dying for the duration of the legal proceeding. The law that so many of us fought so hard for could have been nullified, and thousands of terminally ill Californians would have had their end-of-life options stripped away.
Compassion & Choices advocates have been monitoring the case closely, waiting to learn their own fate and the fates of other terminally ill Californians.
“This ruling is a victory for terminally ill Californians and their families because now they know they won’t have to live through needlessly painful and prolonged deaths,” said John Kappos, a Newport Beach partner in the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Compassion & Choices urging the court to deny the preliminary injunction. “While the court still has to decide the merits of the case, based on this ruling and prior court rulings in similar cases, we are confident we will prevail in the end.”
“This ruling is a validation for the families of terminally ill Californians like Christy O’Donnell and Jennifer Glass who bravely fought until their last breath to pass the End of Life Option Act,’” said Compassion & Choices National Director of Legal Advocacy Kevin Díaz. “The court ruled that suspending the law would have done more harm to terminally ill Californians who want the option of medical aid in dying than the hypothetical harm to the physician plaintiffs who have not had any patients who have requested this option.”
“After all the work I and other terminally ill adults did to pass the End of Life Option Act, this ruling is a great relief,” said Sacramento resident Elizabeth Wallner, who has stage IV colon cancer that has metastasized to her liver and lungs. “Now my son Nathaniel no longer faces the prospect of having to witness his mother die in agony.”
“I thank God the court made the right decision,” said Matt Fairchild, a Catholic, 46-year-old, retired Army staff sergeant from Burbank living with terminal melanoma that has spread to his bones, lungs and brain. “Now my wife Ginger will not have to worry about watching me suffer because I still have the option of medical aid in dying.”
“What a relief for my wife Debbie and me to know I do not have to fear an agonizing dying experience,” said 88-year-old Wolf Breiman, a retired landscape architect from Ventura who was diagnosed seven years ago with an incurable cancer of the white blood cells called multiple myeloma. “Now I can enjoy my life with her to the fullest in my remaining days.”
“After watching my wife Michelle die in agony from cancer two years ago because she could not utilize medical aid in dying to die peacefully in her sleep, I am thankful the court did not take away this option for other terminally ill Californians,” said Tujunga resident Deborah Reuter-Zsarko. “Now terminally ill Californians can focus on living the rest of their days with their loved ones knowing this option is available if they need it.”
“This ruling is a huge win for terminally ill adults who want the option of medical aid in dying to stop unbearable suffering and their physicians who want to offer this option,” said Dr. Wayne McKinny, a retired pediatrician with terminal bladder cancer who lives in Desert Hot Springs. “The court wisely decided not to intervene in these highly personal end-of-life care decisions and preserve the very delicate patient-physician relationship.”
We sent the following invite to our supporters in Maine last week:
I’d like to invite you to a Boothbay Harbor screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner. Join us to watch the film with other Compassion & Choices supporters.
After serving two terms as one of the most popular governors in modern Washington State history, Gardner was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner tells the story of his involvement in the campaign which ultimately authorized medical aid in dying in Washington.
WHAT: Screening of The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner and discussion WHERE: Harbor Theater, 185 Townsend Ave, Boothbay Harbor WHEN: Wednesday, August 17 at 1:00 p.m.
In 2008, as his health deteriorated, Governor Gardner returned to the political spotlight as the driving force behind the ballot initiative that would authorize medical aid in dying. With the help of campaign strategists and volunteers, Gardner mounted a statewide campaign to generate the 225,000 signatures necessary to get the initiative on the ballot. Join us to watch the story of his inspiring work to expand end-of-life options in Washington.
This screening is an opportunity to meet fellow advocates and members of your community to discuss the strategy for expanding access to the full range of end-of-life options here in Maine. As we’ve learned in other states, it takes hard work and perseverance to build support within the state legislature. We hope you will join us and become part of our talented and dedicated team.
Speakers will include Val Lovelace, executive director of It’s My Death, and Lynne Tobin, a counselor.