End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

In the Courts

Morris v. New Mexico
Morris v. New Mexico

Compassion & Choices’ innovative legal advocacy is one strategy among many used to achieve better medical care and access to a full range of end-of-life options. Our impact litigation is widely acknowledged to have brought much needed attention to end-of-life care, and to have established important principles in this arena, including a federal constitutional right to aggressive pain management.

Active Cases:

Pennsylvania v. Mancini

“The U.S. Supreme court has recognized the constitutional right of dying patients to adequate pain relief even if it advances the time of death.” said Kathryn Tucker, Director of Legal Affairs and Advocacy for Compassion & Choices.

Compassion & Choices asserts that the assisted- suicide charge filed against Barbara Mancini in the death of her dying father, Joe Yourshaw, is without foundation because dying patients have a constitutional right to as much medicine as they need to relieve their pain even if it advances the time of death. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized this right in two landmark cases, Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill, both brought by Compassion & Choices’ predecessor organization, Compassion in Dying…More

Morris v. New Mexico

“This is an option I would want. I don’t know if I would take it, but I want the right.” – Dr. Katherine Morris.

This case asks the court to rule that the state’s criminal prohibition of “assisting suicide” does not reach the conduct of a physician providing aid in dying. If the court holds that the statute does not reach aid in dying, the practice will be governed subject to professional practice standards, like other medical practices. This is a test case that could have impact in a number of other jurisdictions…More

Status: Trial to begin in December 2013.

DeArmond v. Kaiser Permanente

“The doctor’s decision to ignore Emily’s POLST was unconscionable, and caused suffering for both Emily and her parents.” – Director of Legal Affairs Kathryn Tucker

This is a civil suit against provider Kaiser Permanente for failure to honor a POLST (physician order for life-sustaining treatment). The goal is to encourage health plans like Kaiser to institute policies to ensure their providers respect patients’ treatment instructions…More

Status: Pending in arbitration.

Hargett v. Vitas

“Mom, you are the best mom, and I love you. It’s OK for you to go because I don’t want you to be in pain.” – Aubrey Beebee, daughter of the late Michelle Hargett-Beebee

This case claims Vitas, the nation’s largest for-profit hospice chain, failed to give full disclosure and counseling about medical choices for end-of-life care and treatment. Hargett aims to ensure that patients are provided comprehensive counseling about end-of-life options…More

Status: Proceeding to trial.

Hallada v. Lakeland

“The one thing I promised my mom is that she would die peacefully. She didn’t have to suffer.” – Sharon Hallada

Medical professionals have a duty to respect patient wishes; meeting that ideal is the goal of this case against two Florida institutions for failure to honor a patient’s do-not-resuscitate order (DNR), inflicting aggressive, invasive treatment despite the patient’s clear wish for no such intervention…More

Past Cases

Blick v. Connecticut

Two Connecticut physicans asked the court to clarify whether the state’s “assisted suicide” law applies to aid in dying. Compassion & Choices helped represent the physician plaintiffs, but the case was dismissed by Judge Julia Aurigemma on June 2, 2010…More

Baxter et al v. Montana

Compassion & Choices was a co-counsel for this case, in which the Montana Supreme Court upheld the right to legal aid in dying for Montanans…More

Gonzales v. Oregon

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of choice at the end of life. In a 6-to-3 decision, the court ruled the Attorney General’s attempt to intervene in affairs of the state’s aid-in-dying law exceeded his authority…More

Glucksberg v. Washington & Quill v. New York

These Compassion & Choices-sponsored cases won recognition for dying patients seeking a constitutional right to pain-relieving medication even it results in death…More

Sampson v. Alaska

Two terminally ill Alaskans challenged the state’s ban on “assisting a suicide” under the state constitution. The Alaska Supreme Court did not find a constitutional right to aid in dying…More

Furlong v. Catholic HealthCare West

Compassion & Choices represented California resident Margaret Furlong’s son to make hospitals and staff accountable for following a patient’s written end-of-life wishes. The California Court of Appeals ruled that the issue was not the failure to give medical care, but the giving of unwanted care, dismissing the claim of elder abuse…More

Tolliver v. Hospice House

Compassion & Choices assisted in representing the daughters of Frances Tolliver, seeking justice for the unnecessary pain and anxiety she suffered as she died in an Omaha hospice. The court found the hospice was negligent in their care of Tolliver. The award granted the family was upheld by the Nebraska Supreme Court in September 2009…More

Bergman v. Eden Medical Center

This 2001 landmark case was a victory for rights of terminally ill patients to receive appropriate pain treatment at the end of life. The jury found in favor of Compassion & Choices’ client, awarding the family $1.5 million for punitive damages…More

Tomlinsen v. BCC

This case led to a greater awareness for the medical community about pain relief at the end of life. Compassion & Choices succeeded in getting the defendants to settle out of court rather than face a large judgment against them…More

Dr. Joan Lewis

Compassion & Choices supported Dr. Joan Lewis, who faced the loss of her medical license for treating the pain of seriously ill patients. Dr. Lewis kept her license and still practices medicine in Albuquerque…More

Dr. Harold Luke

Dr. Luke’s medical license was revoked by the state of California after administering morphine to ease a patient’s pain. Compassion & Choices helped reinstate the medical license of Dr. Luke, who had been unjustly punished for administering morphine to ease a patient’s pain…More

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