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.
Compassion & Choices New Jersey supporters received this email last week:
I’m writing with some great news: Sen. Nicholas Scutari of Union County has agreed to sponsor the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act in the State Senate. That means we now have a bill in both chambers of the state legislature, a crucial step in our campaign to authorize medical aid in dying here in New Jersey.
Of course, our work isn’t done. To ensure our success in the Senate, we need cosponsors who will work alongside Sen. Scutari to get this bill passed. And we’re asking supporters like you to urge your senator to cosponsor this important legislation.
Introducing the bill is just the first step to passage — it will be followed by hearings and then a vote. But a long list of cosponsors would send a signal to our opponents and the media that we have momentum and strong support in the Senate.
Lawmakers are most interested in hearing from their constituents, so a letter from you has the potential to go a long way to convince your senator if they are undecided. Get involved today and tell your senators why medical aid in dying is so important.
Please feel free to include a personal story in your message — it’s impossible to overstate the resonance of personal testimony when appealing to lawmakers.
Click the link below to ask your senator to cosponsor medical aid-in-dying legislation:
In May, just before California’s End of Life Option Act took effect, I was discouraged to hear news that Huntington Hospital, a large care provider in Pasadena, would not allow its physicians to provide medical aid in dying. With this refusal to participate, thousands of terminally ill people would be forced to re-establish care at the time when they most needed the physicians with whom they had built deep trust.
In the days and weeks following, Huntington became the subject of many of the conversations going on between our incredible volunteers and staff in California, and citizens who were outraged that their community made this decision. They spoke with their physicians, wrote letters to their local papers and called hospital representatives letting them know how important this option was to them and their loved ones.
Today, I am proud to say that Huntington Hospital not only reconsidered their position prior to the law’s effective date, but also took an amazing stand Monday, sharing an open letter with their community in the pages of the Los Angeles Times letting them know that the hospital will support patients seeking this option by allowing their physicians to offer the full range of end-of-life options.
This moment represents the incredible changes possible when community members, patients and physicians let their voices be heard and stand up with courage for the options they deserve. I thank everyone in California for their continued commitment to this important cause, and I thank Huntington Hospital for the example they have set.
The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (S2474) was introduced today by bill sponsor Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22). The bill would allow a terminally ill, mentally capable adult the option to request a prescription for life-ending medication that can be self-administered – if and when the individual chooses – to end unbearable suffering and bring about a peaceful and humane death.
“Aid in dying is about alleviating suffering and empowering those who are terminally ill to make their own health care decisions at the end of life,” said Senator Scutari. “Aid in dying works as intended in other states where it is authorized, and has been shown to improve overall end-of-life health care by promoting more candid end-of-life conversations between patients, families and physicians.”
The companion Assembly bill was introduced by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3) as bill number A2451 earlier this year. According to last year’s survey by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, 63 percent of New Jersey voters support aid-in-dying legislation.
In the previous legislative session, the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was passed out of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and passed the full Assembly in a historic vote on November 13, 2014. Bill sponsors hope to bring the bill up for another vote this fall and advocates intend to keep the pressure on.
“We thank Senator Nicholas Scutari and Assemblyman John Burzichelli for their leadership on the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act,” said Ethan Andersen, New Jersey State Field Director for Compassion & Choices. “New Jerseyans want this legislation because they want the same end-of-life options that are available to millions of Americans in other states. Lawmakers will continue to hear from their constituents until aid in dying is authorized.”
Five states currently authorize the option of medical aid in dying – California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont. In signing California’s aid in dying bill into law last October, Governor Jerry Brown wrote, “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
“Whether I used aid in dying or not, it would relieve my anxiety and fear of dying in pain,” said Laurie Wilcox of Clark, New Jersey, who has a terminal disease and advocates for the bill. “The option of aid in dying would allow me to live my final days to the fullest.”
“Watching my two sons die in pain led me to believe we need more options at the end of life,” said Delores Lewis, a senior citizen advocate in Newark, NJ. “Terminally ill adults whose pain cannot be comforted by other options deserve the right to end their own lives peacefully, surrounded by the people they love.”
We sent this message to our New York supporters this week:
I’m writing to ask you to join us for one of our most important events of the year. In just a few weeks, Compassion & Choices New York will have a booth at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.
Our presence at the fair will help us extend our message about the importance of expanding end-of-life options to a huge audience of fair goers — last year, almost a million people attended the fair! This is a wonderful opportunity for us, and we’re asking for volunteers to sign up for two-hour shifts to help distribute information at our table.
If you don’t know much about the fair, let me tell you, it’s a ton of fun! Each day, there are concerts, events, competitions and delicious food on the fairgrounds. If you’re willing to give us just two hours of your day, we’ll pay for your admission to the fair. And don’t worry about the heat, we’ll be tabling in the air-conditioned exhibition center.
As a volunteer, you’ll help distribute informational materials about our campaign to authorize medical aid in dying in New York. We’ll also have postcards ready so that fair attendees can express their support of aid in dying to their lawmakers on the spot.
Before the event, we’ll distribute a recording training video that will include a briefing on our campaign, answers to frequently asked questions, and details about the legislation.
Click the link below to sign up to help out at the New York State Fair. We’ll be in touch with more details:
The following message was sent to Vermont supporters this week:
Last week, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and others filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging Vermont’s Patient Choice and Control at End of Life law violates both federal and state law.
Even though the law does not require any doctor to participate in the aid-in-dying program, a small group of doctors is claiming that ensuring patients’ right to know about available healthcare infringes on the doctors’ rights.
In reality, the law is meant to empower and protect patients. In fact, it is the only way some terminally ill patients learn about all of their end-of-life options, including aid in dying, here in Vermont. These opposition doctors, with the help of out-of-state interest groups, filed this lawsuit to try to take that peace of mind away.
Compassion & Choices is monitoring the suit very closely and our legal team is considering taking action. We believe the law is on our side.
Soon, you’ll hear from Kevin Díaz, Compassion & Choices’ national director of legal advocacy, who will lay out the stakes of this case in more detail. But it’s safe to say that this legal challenge is a threat to our work and seeks to upend protections for patients. We’ll keep you informed as the case moves its way through the courts.
I’ll be sure to notify you of developments. Please know that we are doing everything we can to protect the law.
Supporters in Washington D.C. received the following email message this week:
I’m writing to give you an update on our campaign to authorize medical aid in dying here in the nation’s capital. As you may know, the Death with Dignity Act of 2015 (B21-38) which would authorize aid in dying for terminally ill people, was introduced last year by Councilmember Mary Cheh.
Last July, the council’s Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing where supporters like you provided moving and powerful testimony in support of the legislation. Though there hasn’t been any legislative action since then, we’re preparing for a big push to convince Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Yvette Alexander to hold a vote this fall. It’s important that we are ready to implement our strategy to win a majority of votes on the DC council.
Join us to help craft our plans for the next few months.
WHAT: Compassion & Choices Washington DC Volunteer Meeting
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, talking to your councilmember and more.
Since our hearing last year, California became the fifth state to authorize aid in dying. It was supporters like you in California that convinced the legislature to take action on this crucial issue. And now, we need your help to make medical aid in dying an option in the nation’s capitol.