In Your State
Compassion & Choices (C&C) California is campaigning for the End of Life Options Act, which was introduced in the state legislature by Senators Bill Monning and Lois Wolk on January 21, 2015, dramatically accelerating C&C’s 5-year plan to make aid in dying an open, accessible and legitimate medical practice in California. C&C California continues to build bottom-up support at the city and county levels and is driving the grassroots to press for statewide aid-in-dying legislation. At an emotional press conference with lawmakers announcing the bill, powerful C&C advocates spoke out for end-of-life options, including Jennifer Glass, Anita Freeman, and Brittany Maynard’s family – mother Debbie Ziegler, widower Dan Diaz and his brother, Adrian – who returned home to California after Brittany’s death in Oregon.
The Rocky Mountain State’s House health committee held a February hearing on a bill to authorize aid in dying, but declined to refer it to the full House for a vote this session. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Lois Court and Joann Ginal. They were responding to an open letter published in the Denver Post last year in which a Denver man named Charles Selsberg, who was slowly dying from ALS, pleaded for a death-with-dignity law. C&C is proud to continue working with his daughter, Julie Selsberg, to make her father’s wish a reality for all Coloradans and expects the bill to be re-introduced in 2016.
The Senate Judiciary Committee in Hartford is now considering a bill that authorizes aid in dying and will hold a public hearing in the coming weeks. C&C’s team has been coordinating with its legislative champion, Senator Gary Holder Winfield, and meeting with members of the Committee identifying new supporters, including the Committee’s powerful co-chair. This legislative momentum follows C&C Connecticut’s extremely effective campaign ensuring every candidate for the state legislature heard from voters supportive of death with dignity before Election Day. Citizen lobby days and other events in the Capitol are planned for February and March.
C&C’s experts have been supporting a burgeoning grassroots movement for death with dignity in Maryland, which saw legislation introduced in February: The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death with Dignity Act, with a record 47 total co-sponsors. In the Maryland Senate, it’s SB 676, sponsored by Sen. Ron Young and in the House, it’s HB 1021 sponsored by Rep. Shane Pendergrass. Brittany Maynard’s call to action energized the state in November, raising the visibility of powerful local advocates like Alexa Fraser, Catherine Web, NPR’s Diane Rehm and Friends of Dick Israel. In fact, Senator Young was moved to introduce his bill after speaking with a constituent who approached him about it at Walmart. With events scheduled for March 4th, 6th and 10th in Annapolis, C&C is encouraging Marylanders to turn out and show their support. Please click over to the Maryland State Page for details!
C&C’s passionate citizen advocates helped defeat a bill in the Montana House that would have outlawed aid in dying and imprisoned doctors who provide this medical option. It went down in a bipartisan 51-49 vote on February 17th. A second, similar bill will be up for a House vote in late February. Aid in dying is authorized in Montana under a court ruling, which C&C is celebrating with a report called “Five Years of Dignity: The Baxter Ruling and End-of-Life Freedom in Montana.” It documents events leading up to and since the 2009 State Supreme Court ruling. Click on the Montana page to read the report, see a beautiful slide show featuring C&C activists – and to find out how you can help protect Montanans’ freedom to choose how they die.
C&C’s ambitious grass roots and legislative strategy, combined with an explosion in public support during Brittany Maynard’s campaign, has put death with dignity on the fast track in New Jersey. In November 2014, the state’s Assembly passed The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act in a floor vote; the following week, the Senate President publicly committed to moving the bill through his chamber. That helped get the bill through committee, and the full Senate will be voting on it in the coming weeks. C&C arranged for Brittany’s widower, Dan Diaz, to sit down with key lawmakers in the Garden State following his national media appearances in next-door New York in January.
The New York End of Life Options Act was introduced in February by Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island, less than three months after C&C committed campaign resources to the state. Savino said that a person’s access to aid in dying shouldn’t be dependent on their Zip Code, echoing Brittany Maynard’s belief that no American should have to leave home behind to exercise their right to death with dignity. C&C has a strong team in the state, which is generating extensive, positive media coverage and continuing to work closely with Senator Savino and co-sponsor Senator Brad Hoylman to build support for their bill. A date will soon be set for a legislative hearing in Albany.
In 2013, Vermont became the first state to pass a death-with-dignity law through the legislative process. The C&C Vermont team continues working with Patient Choices Vermont, C&C’s physician allies and nurse leaders to expand implementation. C&C Vermont is working with new volunteer advocates and is preparing to defend access to death with dignity under Act 39 during the 2015 legislative session.
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