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Tag Archive: Aid in Dying

  1. Compassion & Choices Pres. Barbara Coombs Lee’s Statement on Canada Euthanasia Bill

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    The Canadian Press syndicated a story on April 26 conflating the Oregon Death with Dignity Act with Canada’s euthanasia legislation, C-14, which quoted one of Compassion & Choices’ national medical directors. The story and the quotes wrongly suggest Compassion & Choices would support euthanasia and legislation that would not require adults to be terminally ill to qualify for medical aid in dying.

    These suggestions are incorrect, and such support would violate two of Compassion & Choices’ seven principles for person-centered healthcare: autonomy and self-determination. As an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years, I saw many dying patients whose autonomy and self-determination were betrayed. Compassion & Choices would not violate these principles.

    Euthanasia and medical aid in dying are vastly different. Medical aid in dying gives the terminally ill person, and only that person, the option to decide, in consultation with their family and physician, and in accordance with their faith or spiritual values, if and when to take the medication to shorten an unbearable dying process. This is critically important: more than one-third of Oregonians who obtain aid-in-dying medication do not to take it. Nevertheless, they experience the palliative benefit of being able to make a decision about the duration and severity of pain and suffering in the dying process.

    Compassion & Choices advocates for medical aid in dying because the dying person controls the process from beginning to the end. We do not support euthanasia because someone else — not the dying person — may choose and act to cause death.

    Requiring that only terminally ill, mentally capable adults are eligible for medical aid in dying is a proven model for a safe and effective practice in Oregon and other U.S. states for more than 30 years. On the other hand, we respect the cultural differences of other nations, including our neighbors in Canada, and their sovereign right to craft laws their citizens’ support.

    The quotes cited in the context of The Canadian Press story about the Canada euthanasia bill do not represent our experience, our philosophy or our advocacy.

  2. Terminally Ill People of Color Need Option of Medical Aid in Dying

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    Photo: Patricia A. González-Portillo and her brother, Dr. Victor M. Gonzalez Jr., who died June 13, 2007.

    By Patricia A. González-Portillo

    My brother Victor could not hold a fork, talk or walk, by the time his renal cancer had metastasized to his brain.

    For almost two years, he endured tubes, needles and agony that his 32-year career as a doctor never prepared him for.

    It broke my heart to see my oldest brother, once a handsome and brilliant physician, become emaciated, suffering from unbearable pain that the hospice team that he once directed in South Texas could not alleviate.

    We prayed for a miracle.

    But Victor was dying in a very tortuous way.

    “There is nothing medicine can do for me now,” he whispered to me. “Please understand what I am going through.”

    I heard similar stories throughout Compassion & Choices’ campaign last year that led to the historic passage of California’s End of Life Option Act. When the law takes effect on June 9, it will give terminally ill adults the option to get prescription medication they can decide to take if their suffering becomes intolerable in the final stages of a deadly disease.

    Unfortunately, the California law won’t help Miguel Carrasquillo, a 35-year-old chef from Chicago who is suffering from an incurable brain tumor.

    Miguel’s story hit particularly close to home for me because we both are Catholic Latinos.

    I recently traveled to Puerto Rico, where Miguel’s parents are caring for him, to videotape his story for Compassion & Choices. He made a plea for legislators nationwide to support medical aid-in-dying laws throughout the United States.

    Miguel spoke of his last wish to ingest medication to peacefully end his suffering, so he could take his last breath holding his mother’s hand in the modest home he rents about 30 miles from San Juan.

    Medical aid in dying is not a legally authorized option in Miguel’s home state of Illinois or Puerto Rico.

    Miguel talked about his request that his fellow Latinos speak to their doctors so they will honor their patients’ end-of-life wishes, whether they agree with them or not. He urged Latinos to drop our cultural taboo of discussing death and medical aid in dying. He encouraged our brothers and sisters in Christ to stop referring to aid in dying as a sin.

    I held back tears as Miguel spoke about the horrific headaches, electric shocks and blindness from the brain cancer that has spread to his liver, stomach, testicles, and other vital organs.

    His words brought flashbacks of my brother Victor and the wrenching emotional pain I felt watching him suffer from the cancer that metastasized to his brain.

    I took a pause and collected myself as Miguel experienced a series of electric shocks that forced us to stop our taping for the day.

    Miguel smiled proudly when he learned he would become Compassion & Choices first terminally ill Latino in a bilingual video to advocate for medical aid in dying.

    Miguel often wonders if God helped cross our paths to help deliver his final message on end-of-life options.

    I truly believe He did.

    Patricia A. González-Portillo is the National Latino Communications Manager and former California campaign communications director for Compassion & Choices. She is a former journalist for La Opinión , The [Riverside, CA] Press-Enterprise and The Brownsville [Texas] Herald.

  3. Join us for a panel discussion in Scarsdale, New York

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    Check out this email we sent to our supporters in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley:


    If you want the freedom to make end-of-life decisions for yourself, based on your values, please join me for a panel event in Scarsdale. On April 25, Compassion & Choices will participate in a panel discussion on aid in dying hosted by The Journal News.

    The panel will include Stacey Gibson, our Lower Hudson Action Team leader, as well as Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a sponsor of aid-in-dying legislation, and David Leven, director of End of Life Choices New York. But the panel will also include three fervent opponents of medical aid in dying. We need supporters of expanded end-of-life options like you in attendance to support our panelists.

    WHAT: The Journal News panel on medical aid in dying
    WHERE: Scarsdale Public Library, 54 Olmsted Rd, Scarsdale
    WHEN: Monday, April 25 at 7:00 p.m.

    Click here to RSVP for the panel.

    A strong showing of supporters would make clear that momentum is building in New York for expanded end-of-life options. Your attendance is important to show lawmakers and faith leaders from across the state that there is broad support for legislation authorizing medical aid in dying for those who suffer needlessly at the end of life.

    Opponents are sure to be a visible presence at the meeting. Let’s work together to demonstrate that most New Yorkers want the freedom to make end-of-life decisions according to their values. Our supporters across the country have worn our iconic yellow t-shirts to stand out in the crowd; you can help highlight our numbers by wearing yellow to the event. We will also have shirts available for those who arrive early.

    Click the link below to RSVP:


    I hope to see you there and I encourage you to bring a friend.

    Until then,


    Corinne Carey
    NY Campaign Director

  4. Canadian Government Follows Oregon Model for Aid-in-Dying Law

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    Today the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled legislation that would authorize the medical practice of aid in dying across all of Canada’s provinces and territories. The bill is similar to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which took effect in 1997. A Canadian Supreme Court ruling last year required Parliament to implement an aid-in-dying law and, following an extension, the deadline to do so is June 6, 2016.

    The co-author of the Oregon aid-in-dying law is Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who worked as an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. Coombs Lee is also president of Compassion & Choices, the oldest and most active end-of-life advocacy group in the U.S., and today she issued this statement:

    “Canadians are soon to have a law that honors an individual’s dignity, freedom and personal values at the end of life, similar to what has served Oregonians so well for nearly 20 years. The Canadian legislation provides guidelines about who would be eligible for what they are calling “medically assisted death,” and we know that Oregon’s specific eligibility criteria give physicians here a lot of confidence in making that determination. In Oregon, a person must be terminally ill with a prognosis of 6 months or less to live, and that kind of clarity is essential for ensuring doctors participate and make this option widely accessible.”

  5. Miguel Carrasquillo: ‘I pray to God that He takes me soon’

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    The Chicago Tribune published an opinion piece by Miguel Carrasquillo, who recorded a bilingual video for Compassion & Choices to urge state lawmakers nationwide to pass laws to give terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying.

    In the piece, Miguel talks about the pain he experiences and calls on lawmakers nationwide to authorize medical aid and dying:

    Legislators in every U.S. state and territory: Please authorize medical aid in dying as an end-of-life option. Dying people in intractable pain have no viable options other than to go back and forth to hospitals, where they poke us over and over, where they give us more pills and connect us to machines that prolong our dying process. I am tired of fighting.

    Doctors: I urge you to listen and to honor your patients’ end-of-life wishes, whether you agree with them or not.

    My fellow Latinos: I ask you to break the cultural taboo of discussing death and medical aid in dying. Talking about death is one of the most important conversations we should have, whether we are dying or not. Terminally ill people should not have to endure needless pain; instead they should be able to see a doctor to request a prescription for medication to end their suffering. Latinos need to stop worrying about being judged. We need to advocate for laws authorizing the option of medical aid in dying.

    My fellow Americans: Please call your legislators, write e-mails and tell them you support laws to authorize medical aid in dying.

    My brothers and sisters in Christ: Please stop referring to medical aid in dying as a sin. I respect those who would make a different decision if they were in my shoes, but I urge you to respect my end-of-life wishes and not impose your values on me.

    Click here to read the entire piece at The Chicago Tribune.

  6. Latino Moribundo Hace Video Bilingüe Que Pide Aprobar La Ley De Asistencia Médica Para Morir A Nivel Nacional

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    Residente de Chicago insta a los legisladores de Puerto Rico, Illinois y otros estados a aprobar las leyes

    Miguel Carrasquillo, un joven latino moribundo, ha grabado un video bilingüe para Compassion & Choices que insta a los legisladores a nivel nacional a aprobar leyes que permitan a los adultos con enfermedades terminales la opción de recibir ayuda médica para morir.

    El video fue divulgado para promover el Día Nacional de Decisiones en el Cuidado de la Salud, (National Healthcare Decisions Day [NHDD, por sus siglas en inglés]) este sábado 16 de abril. “NHDD es una iniciativa para motivar a las personas a expresar sus deseos con respecto al cuidado de salud que quieren recibir al final de sus días y para las instituciones y proveedores de salud para que sepan respetar esos deseos, sin importar lo que sea.” El video está disponible en inglés en https://youtu.be/Ehxovh3qhaI y en español en https://youtu.be/wn7pseNRkqU.

    Miguel ha soportado con valentía los tratamientos terriblemente dolorosos para tratar de curar el tumor cerebral que se ha extendido por todo su cuerpo. Actualmente, él se encuentra visitando familiares en New Britain, Conn.

    “Cada vez que me levanto. Bregar con diferentes sintomatologías: dolores de cabeza, dolores de espalda. Convulsiones… Choques eléctricos,” dijo en el video. “La persona que está sufriendo soy yo. Hay que estar en esos zapatos para que tu sientas lo que yo estoy sintiendo…. Yo quiero, es morir de la manera en la que yo estoy buscando morir… Por pastillas…”

    Por desgracia, para Miguel, la ayuda médica para morir no es una opción legalmente autorizada en el estado natal de Illinois, o en Puerto Rico, pasa sus ultimos dias con sus padres católicos que cuidan a este chef profesional de 35 años en la etapa final de su vida.

    “Yo le pido a Dios que esto acabe ya”, dice en el video. ”Mira, no es que yo esté dándome por vencido, es que yo estoy cansado de luchar, cansado de vivir de cómo estoy viviendo”.

    Actualmente, solo cinco estados autorizan la ayuda médica para morir: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont y California, donde la nueva ley entrará el efecto el 9 de junio.

    “La trágica experiencia de Miguel ilustra claramente la necesidad urgente de crear opciones al final de la vida en todas las comunidades de nuestro país,” dijo Barbara Lee, presidenta de Compassion & Choices, una abogada que coescribió la ley de Oregon que permite la ayuda médica para morir, después de trabajar como enfermera de ER y ICU y como asistente médico por 25 años. “Las muertes dolorosas no conocen fronteras. No respetan grupos étnicos ni religiones.”

    Miguel espera que su historia ayude a persuadir a que los legisladores de todos los estados y territorios de Estados Unidos autoricen la ayuda médica para morir como una opción al final de la vida.

    “Senadores, les pido que de favor escuchen mi petición, que es morir con una dosis de pastillas, como Brittany Maynard que lo hizo en Oregón,” señaló. “Ya estamos cansados, cansados de seguir luchando día tras día. Solamente escuchen, escuchen”.

    Nilsa Centeno, la madre de Miguel, no se imagina el perder a su único hijo, el mayor. Pero es aun peor verlo morir lentamente con dolores insoportables.

    “Lo he visto sufrir, lo he visto llorar, lo he visto caerse, desplomarse” dice Centeno en el video. “Se trata de la dignidad del ser humano y en este caso es mi hijo. Y esa dignidad hay que respetarse hasta el último momento”.

    Miguel tambien éspera que los latinos hagan a un lado el tabú cultural de no hablar sobre la muerte y la ayuda médica para morir.

    Antes de partir, pues yo quería conocer a mi sobrino, el cuál ya – Ya he cumplido la cosa que ya quería hacer. Ya conocí a mi sobrino. Se llama Miguel Andrés. Ya yo estoy listo para morir”.

    Compassion & Choices recientemente lanzó una campaña bilingüe en California, www.EndOfLifeoption.org, para educar a los californianos con enfermedades terminales, sus familias y los proveedores de salud sobre los beneficios y requisitos en el estado de la ley que permite la ayuda médica para morir.

  7. Bilingual Video by Dying Latino Calls for Aid-in-Dying Laws Nationwide

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    Chicagoan Urges Lawmakers in Native Puerto Rico, Illinois, Other States to Pass Bills

    A young Latino man dying of brain cancer, Miguel Carrasquillo, has recorded a bilingual video for Compassion & Choices to urge state lawmakers nationwide to pass laws to give terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying.

    The video was released to promote National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) this Sat., April 16. NHDD is an initiative to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. The video is posted in English at https://youtu.be/Ehxovh3qhaI and in Spanish at https://youtu.be/wn7pseNRkqU.

    Miguel has bravely endured excruciatingly painful treatments to try to cure his cancer, but it has spread throughout his body. Currently, he is visiting relatives in New Britain, Conn. Medical aid in dying enables terminally ill adults to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can choose to ingest to die peacefully in their sleep if their end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable.

    “Going to the hospital back and forward like I do … Every day we have to deal with different symptoms: headaches, back pains, electric shock all over your body, convulsions, seizures,” he says in the video. “I want to die with a medication.”

    Unfortunately for Miguel, medical aid in dying is not a legally authorized option in his home state of Illinois or in Puerto Rico, where his Catholic parents have been caring for the 35-year-old professional chef in the final stage of his life.

    “The day of Miguel Carrasquillo is just only in the bath with the help of my mom,” he says in the video. “I’m not able to do anything. My memory is completely gone. I tell God that I need to go, right now. I want the option to choose how I want to die.”

    Currently, only five states authorize medical aid in dying: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and California, where a new law will take effect on June 9.

    “Miguel’s tragic experience vividly illustrates the urgent need for end-of-life options in every community in our nation,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who coauthored the Oregon law authorizing medical aid in dying after working as an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “Painful deaths know no boundaries. They respect no ethnic groups or religions.”

    Miguel hopes his story will persuade legislators in every U.S. state and territory, including Puerto Rico, to authorize medical aid in dying as an end-of-life option.

    “Senator, I have a petition which is listen to myself the way I want to die,” he says in the video. “I had one thing that I was going to do before I was dying: It was to meet my nephew, Miguel Andrés. He was born three months ago. That’s it.”

    Miguel’s mother, Nilsa Centeno, says the thought of losing her oldest and only son is unimaginable. But seeing him die slowly in unbearable pain is even worse.

    “I have seen him suffer; I have seen him cry; I’ve seen him fall, collapse,” she says in the video. “This is about the dignity of human beings, and in this case it’s my son. That dignity must be respected until the final moment.”

    Miguel hopes his fellow Latinos abandon the cultural taboo of avoiding talking about death and support medical aid in dying as an end-of-life option.

    “It is a taboo about Latinos to talk about that option ’cause people are scared of what other people gonna say, are they gonna tell?” he says in the video.

    Compassion & Choices recently launched a statewide bilingual campaign in California, www.EndOfLifeoption.org, to educate terminally ill Californians, families and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of the state’s medical aid-in-dying law.

  8. Aid in dying supporters among most spiritually influential of 2016

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    Congratulations to the 100 leaders selected by Watkins Magazine as most spiritually influential people living in 2016. We are especially excited to find several vocal supporters of end of life choices acknowledged this year.

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu, well-known activist and South African nobel laureate, shared his endorsement of aid in dying in a powerful public opinion piece. Other impactful selectees, such as, psychologist, author and teacher of meditation, Tara Brach, and American spiritual teacher and author Ram Daas, are supportive of Compassion & Choices and in favor of death with dignity as well.

    We are thankful for the support of such incredible leaders.

    Click here to take a look at the full list from Watkins magazine.

  9. Join us for an event in Campbell Hall

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    Check out the email we sent today about a great event happening in Campbell Hall, New York next week. We hope you can join us!:


    As you know, our campaign to bring the option of medical aid in dying to terminally ill adults in New York is now in full swing. And now, we’re coming to the Catskills region to organize the grassroots teams we’ll need to succeed.

    Please join me for a discussion in Campbell Hall about expanding end-of-life options in New York, and pending legislation that would authorize medical aid in dying for terminally ill people. We’ll discuss what we can do to ensure the passage of this vital legislation, and what dedicated advocates like you can do to help.

    WHAT:Expanding Options at the End of Life: An update on the campaign to change the law to allow for medical aid in dying in New York State WHERE:Noble Coffee Roasters, 30-20 Route 207, Campbell Hall

    WHEN: Thursday, April 14, 3:30-5:30 p.m.

    Click here to RSVP.

    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 New Yorkers’ control over their end-of-life care. You’ll also have the opportunity to help form the Catskills-area action team. An action team is a local group of supporters who meet regularly and work to build support for end-of-life options.

    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 Catskills region.

    Click the link below to RSVP to this important event:


    I’ll be hosting this event, and I hope to see you there.

    Until then,


    Corinne Carey
    NY Campaign Director

  10. Massachusetts aid in dying bill needs your help

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    Check out the message we sent today to our supporters in Massachusetts:


    As you may know, the Compassionate Aid in Dying Act, which authorizes aid in dying in Massachusetts, is still under review by the Joint Public Health Committee of the state legislature.

    While the bill is being reviewed on Beacon Hill, we need your help to remind lawmakers that we stand with the 70% of Bay State voters and the millions of voters throughout the nation that support expanding choices at the end of life.

    Click here to tell your legislators that you support the Compassionate Aid in Dying Act.

    Lawmakers all across the state want to know where you stand. Join our citizen lobbying campaign by signing the petition that urges legislative support for this important human right.

    Supportive petitions and letters from voters played a huge role in last year’s passage of California’s End of Life Option Act. Let your voice be heard so that Massachusetts can be next.

    Help us keep the Compassionate Aid in Dying Act alive by communicating with your lawmakers. Click the link below to send the signed petition to your representatives:


    Thank you for your ongoing commitment and support.


    Marie Manis
    Massachusetts Campaign Manager

    If you live in the Bay State or know people who do, make sure to take action and send this message to your friends!