End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Posts TaggedCompassion & Choices

“Doctor, Please Help me Die”

by Barbara Coombs Lee
May 15, 2013

Dr. Tom Preston, a Compassion & Choices leader in Seattle, chose these poignant words for the title of his new book. They are powerful words, gripping even on paper. Imagine them emerging from the lips of a patient, perhaps one whom the doctor has treated over decades, who is now dying of cancer. They strike right at the core of a physician’s identity, training and moral compass.

Preston knows well that each person, each healer and each caregiver responds to such a request from patient or loved one from the deepest parts of their own authentic being. He begins his book quoting Dumbledore, who in the last Harry Potter book pleaded with Snape to cut his dying short. “You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation,” the wizard tells his reluctant friend. So it is with every doctor In America. More

Aid-in-Dying Supporters Vow to Help Hawaii’s Terminally Ill

by Lara Yamada
KITV News
November 12, 2012

“In the end of February, it was discovered I had kidney cancer,” said hospice care worker Dorothy Haden, who has stage four cancer.

“I tried to live my life with dignity, and I do want to end my life with dignity,” said former lawmaker Earnest Juggie Heen, who has liver and pancreatic cancer.

Both said they want to choose how and when they end their lives.

“It’s our position that aid in dying is legal and it can be incorporated into medical practice legitimately here in Hawaii,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, who is the president of Compassion & Choices, a national nonprofit organization that supports aid in dying. She returned to Hawaii in early November, one year after a small group of Hawaii doctors first prescribed life-ending medication to a terminally ill patient.

“Hawaii has a constellation of laws that have never really criminalized aid in dying,” she said.

She said in the past year, 31 people have inquired about aid in dying, seven qualified to receive medication, and four were actually prescribed it, but she said all four died of natural causes before taking that prescription.

“People just want the comfort. They just want peace of mind,” she told KITV4 reporter Lara Yamada. More

Happy Endings: In Real Life, Mystery Writer Promotes Assisted Death

by Elihu Blotnick
Stanford Magazine
November 8, 2012

At 82, Merla Zellerbach has been reborn as a mystery writer. Her earlier novels paint psychological portraits. The Hallie Marsh Mystery Series, however, reflects the Bay Area author’s present concern: the injustices of death.

“I’m just getting started; I feel fit and fabulous. I can never lie about my age,” she says with a laugh. “I was born here, educated here and still see too many of my old school chums from Stanford.”

Zellerbach’s Marsh—the heroine of three novels so far—becomes an accidental detective after breast cancer changes the course of her life. Surrounded by medical expertise and malfeasance, she evolves novel by novel, as the mystery within begins to reflect the mystery without. Zellerbach, ’52, writes with wry wit and a breezy style. She sets her plots in the Bay Area and keeps the reader absorbed with recognizable character types and local color. More

When Prolonging Death Seems Worse Than Death

NPR
October 9, 2012

Many of us think of death as the worst possible outcome for a terminally ill patient, but Judith Schwarz disagrees.

Schwarz, a patient supporter at the nonprofit Compassion & Choices, says prolonging death can be a far worse fate. For many patients, good palliative or hospice care can alleviate suffering, yet “a small but significant proportion of dying patients suffer intolerably,” Schwarz says.

Based in the New York area, Compassion & Choices is an organization that helps terminally ill patients and their families make informed and thoughtful end-of-life decisions to hasten a patient’s death. These decisions are not made impulsively, Schwarz tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “Nobody makes this choice unless the burdens of living have so consistently, day after day, outweighed all benefit.” More

New Aid-in-Dying Service Getting Inquiries

by Chad Blair
Honolulu Civil Beat
October 5, 2012

Compassion & Choices Hawaii, a nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, received 31 local inquiries in its first year of service.

The figure comes from an annual report released by the Physician Advisory Council for Aid in Dying, or PACAID, a group of local doctors that collaborates with Compassion & Choices Hawaii and can prescribe life-ending medication if necessary.

PACAID has a rigorous eligibility process that applicants must go through, and of those 31 inquiries only seven qualified to consult with a PACAID doctor.

Of the seven, four received a prescription for medication “which they could ingest to end their life and suffering in peace and dignity, at the time of their choosing,” according to a Compassion & Choices press release.

As of Thursday, two of the four patients died from natural causes and none had taken the medication.

“Terminally ill people get peace of mind from knowing they can request medication that will allow them to achieve a peaceful death,” Mary Steiner, campaign manager for Compassion & Choices Hawaii, said in a statement. “Some people get a prescription and don’t take the medication for weeks or months. They go on living their life.”

Steiner dismissed arguments from opponents of aid in dying that patients would use the medication prematurely.

“The report shows just the opposite, as we have seen in other states where the option is available,” she said. “Patients frequently say that the peace of mind and control they gain makes it easier to live out their remaining days.” More