End-of-Life Choice, Death with Dignity, Palliative Care and Counseling

Posts TaggedDeath with Dignity

Brittany Maynard’s Family, Compassion & Choices Partner With California Lawmakers on End-of-Life Option Bill

Senators Bill Monning, Lois Wolk Craft Legislation to Authorize Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Adults in Golden State 

(Sacramento, CA – Jan. 21, 2015) Just a few months after 29-year-old Californian Brittany Maynard had to utilize an Oregon law to end her suffering from terminal brain cancer, two California senators today announced they have authored similar legislation in California. Brittany Maynard’s mother and husband, Compassion & Choices, and a diverse array of supporters praised the introduction of the bill, “The End-of-Life Options Act” (SB 128), at a 1:30 p.m. PT news conference at the state Capitol.

Watch the emotional press conference by clicking here.

“The time is right for California to advance the conversation about end-of-life options,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning, who coauthored the bill with Senator Majority Whip Lois Wolk.  “We are working together to establish a process that honors a  patient’s right to make informed decisions about dying and respects the individual’s beliefs after receiving a terminal prognosis.  We will continue to meet with parties interested in this issue, and are committed to an open and inclusive dialogue as the legislation moves forward.”

Maynard — who suffered debilitating, painful seizures caused by her terminal brain cancer — had to move to Oregon so she could access its death-with-dignity law because California does not authorize this end-of-life option. It gives terminally ill, mentally competent adults the option to request a prescription for aid-in-dying medication that they can choose to take if their suffering becomes unbearable.

California voters support the medical option of aid in dying by more than a 2-1 margin (64% vs. 24%). Yet, two decades after Oregon voters passed the nation’s first death-with-dignity law in 1994, California still has not authorized this end-of-life option.

“Support for this law runs across all demographic categories, from every ethnic, religious and economic background,” said Senate Majority Whip Wolk. “It is not a partisan issue.  It is about the most personal freedom there is and guaranteeing terminally ill Californians will have a right to exercise this option if they believe it is right for them.”

In the final weeks of her life, Maynard partnered with Compassion & Choices to launch a campaign on www.TheBrittanyFund.org to make aid in dying an open and accessible medical practice in her home state and throughout the country.

“It is unacceptable that Brittany Maynard had to leave her home, her family, her dogs, her medical team in order to die peacefully, in comfort and in control,” said Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera, a board member of Compassion & Choices, which supports the California bill. “The Lord does not want his children to suffer.”

Debbie Ziegler spoke about her mission to keep her only daughter’s legacy alive.

“Brittany fought to the end for expanded availability of end-of-life options in California,” she said. “I will make my daughter, Brittany, proud by standing up and telling her story even if my voice shakes. Even if I choke back tears. I hope that no other Californian has to go through what Brittany did.”

“Having aid in dying as an end-of-life option provided great relief to Brittany,” said Dan Diaz, Brittany’s husband. “It enabled my wife to focus on living her last days to

the fullest, rather than having to worry about dying in agony from terminal brain cancer. I promised Brittany I would do everything in my power to fulfill her mission to make this end-of-life option available to all Californians.”

Rapid introduction of the bill mirrors the momentum behind similar legislation around the country.

Since Brittany Maynard’s story broke on Oct. 6, lawmakers have introduced similar bills, or pledged to so, in Washington, D.C. and at least 13 states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Brittany’s story also is galvanizing Compassion & Choices campaigns to pass bills authorizing aid in dying in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey and to defend this legally recognized option in Montana, New Mexico and Vermont.

National and state polls consistently show the vast majority of Americans across the demographic and political spectrum want to maintain their right to choose their medical treatment at the end of their life.

The California bill is modeled after legislation in Oregon and other states where aid in dying has been proven to be good policy and medical practice.

  • It allows only qualified, terminally ill and mentally competent adults to request and obtain a prescription from their physician for medication that the patient can self-administer to bring about a peaceful and humane death.  Two physicians must confirm the prognosis is terminal.
  • It requires two witnesses to attest that the request is voluntary.
  • It protects physicians from civil or criminal liability, and from professional disciplinary action, if they fulfill an eligible  individual’s request. Participation by doctors is fully voluntary.
  • It provides safeguards against any coercion of patients: It establishes felony penalties for coercing or forging a request; and it honors a patient’s right to rescind the request.

Besides Oregon, aid in dying is authorized in Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico.

Death with Dignity Option Wins in Watershed Assembly Vote

Aid in Dying Law Now More Likely for People of New Jersey

November 13, 2014 (Trenton, NJ) – In a move that brings the people of New Jersey one step closer to having the medical option of aid in dying, the New Jersey State Assembly voted 41-31 in a bipartisan fashion to pass the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (A2270).

“Today’s vote reflects our first victory in the memory and spirit of Brittany Maynard,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, which advocated for the bill. “Brittany called on our nation to reform laws so others won’t have to move to a Dignity state for comfort and control in their dying. We’re honored to carry on in her name.”

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill adult the choice to request a prescription for life-ending medication that the patient could take – if and when they choose – in order to reduce suffering at life’s end.

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was re-introduced in February 2014 by Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli, whose own sister-in-law, Claudia Burzichelli, succumbed to lung cancer in 2013.   Prior to her death, she testified about her expected suffering, “…I would hope I might have more options than starving myself or taking my life in a violent way. I don’t know how I will truly feel if and when that time may come. But it comforts me there could be another way, other options. More

Brittany Maynard Dies With Dignity

Death Comes Peacefully After Taking Aid-in-Dying Medication  

(Portland, OR – Nov. 2, 2014) Twenty-nine year-old Brittany Maynard’s public story of bravely enduring brain cancer touched the hearts of millions of Americans. She died peacefully on Saturday, Nov. 1 in her Portland home, surrounded by family and friends.

Brittany suffered increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms. As symptoms grew more severe she chose to abbreviate the dying process by taking the aid-in-dying medication she had received months ago. This choice is authorized under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act. She died as she intended – peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.

Brittany’s family requests that the media respect their wish to mourn her loss privately. They have released an official obituary, cut and pasted below and available at www.TheBrittanyFund.org. It is also posted below.

“Brittany has died, but her love of life and nature, her passion and spirit endure,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee. “In Brittany’s memory, do what matters most. And tell those you love how much they matter to you. We will work to carry on her legacy of bringing end-of-life choice to all Americans.”

Brittany’s Obituary

“One Day Your Life Will Flash Before Your Eyes, Make Sure it’s Worth Watching”

Brittany Lauren Maynard was born in 1984 and forged a brief but solid 29 years of generosity, compassion, education, travel, and humor. She happily met her husband Daniel Diaz in April of 2007 and they married, as best friends, 5 years later in September of 2012.

This past year, on New Year’s Day, Brittany was diagnosed with brain cancer. She was given a terminal diagnosis for which there was no cure or life saving measures available. In the face of such terminal illness and pain, Brittany chose to live each day fully, traveled, and kept as physically active and busy as she possibly could.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”- Theodore Roosevelt. A formula to live by, sick or well.

After being told by one doctor that “she probably didn’t even have weeks to be on her feet,” she was found climbing 10 mile trails along the ice fields of Alaska with her best friend in the sunshine months later. “Speak your own truth, even when your voice shakes.” she would say.

Brittany graduated from UC Berkeley as an undergrad, and received a Masters in Education from UC Irvine. She believed in compassion, equity, and that people would remember most how you made them feel in life. As Faulkner said, “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If more people all over the world would do this, the world would change.”

She was an accomplished and adventuresome traveler who spent many months living solo and teaching in orphanages in Kathmandu, Nepal. That single experience forever changed her life and perspective on childhood, happiness, privilege and outcomes. She fell in love with her time in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Thailand. She spent a summer working in Costa Rica, and traveled to Tanzania, and summited Kilimanjaro with a girlfriend a month before her wedding. She took ice climbing courses on Cayambe and Cotopaxi in Ecuador and was an avid scuba diver, who relished her time in the Galapagos, Zanzibar, Caymans and pretty much any island she ever visited.

She loved her two dogs like family, a small Beagle and large Great Dane, and was always the one to take in lost dogs and find them homes. Brittany was a regular volunteer at a local animal rescue organization before her diagnosis.

Brittany chose to make a well thought out and informed choice to Die With Dignity in the face of such a terrible, painful, and incurable illness. She moved to Oregon to pass away in a little yellow house she picked out in the beautiful city of Portland. Oregon is a place that strives to protect patient rights and autonomy; she wished that her home State of California had also been able to provide terminally ill patients with the same choice. Brittany chose to speak out and advocate for this patient right and option, which she felt is an informed choice that should be made available to all terminally ill patients across our great nation. “The freedom is in the choice,” she believed. “If the option of DWD is unappealing to anyone for any reason, they can simply choose not to avail themselves of it. Those very real protections are already in place.” With great consideration, she gave personal interviews to the UK’s Tonight Show prior to Death with Dignity being addressed by their Parliament, as well as participated in an American based campaign for Death With Dignity education and legislation.

She is survived by her faithful, practical, and kind husband Daniel Diaz, her loving self-less mother Deborah Ziegler and honorable step-father Gary Holmes. And by Dan’s loving supportive family, parents: Carmen and Barry and brothers: David, Adrian, and Alex. All of whom she adored and loved very deeply. While she had longed for children of her own, she left this world with zero regrets on time spent, places been, or people she loved in her 29 years.

In this final message, she wanted to express a note of deep thanks to all her beautiful, smart, wonderful, supportive friends whom she “sought out like water” during her life and illness for insight, support, and the shared experience of a beautiful life.

“It is people who pause to appreciate life and give thanks who are happiest. If we change our thoughts, we change our world! Love and peace to you all.” – Brittany Maynard

Celebrating the 24th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Compassion & Choices celebrates the 24th anniversary of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, because we share its goal of increased autonomy and expanded options for all people.

Sign the petition if you believe that all adults should be free to make their own end-of-life decisions, regardless of whether they live with disabilities.

Recent polls in the Northeast show a strong majority of voters living with disabilities support death with dignity in each state polled: Connecticut (65%), Massachusetts (74%) and New Jersey (63%).

Compassion & Choices believes end-of-life choice is a basic civil and human right. We are dedicated to ensuring adults secure this right in every state, not just a select few states where it currently exists (Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico).

Sign the petition today to stand with Compassion & Choices in celebrating the success of the ADA and continuing to defend the autonomy of all Americans.

Click here to sign the petition.

Newspaper endorses one-year-old Vermont death-with-dignity law, cites other DWD laws

By Sean Crowley

Yesterday, The [West Lebanon] Valley News, a New Hampshire newspaper with half of its subscribers living in neighboring Vermont, tacitly endorsed Vermont’s one-year-old death-with-dignity law.

The endorsement also is significant because death-with-dignity legislation also has been introduced in New Hampshire. 

The editorial quoted Compassion & Choices Vermont State Director Linda Waite Simpson, who also serves on the Vemront House Judiciary Committee and recently wrote an oped published by the Rutland Herald about the successful implementation of the Vermont death-with-dignity law:

“‘What’s happening here mirrors what happened in Oregon,’ state Rep. Linda Waite-Simpson, D-Essex, told The Associated Press. ‘It’s not unexpected that we did not have a huge flood of people.’” More