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

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Jeb Bush’s Suggestion to Require Medicare Recipients to Complete Advance Directives Called “Step in Right Direction”

Compassion & Choices Says Enforcement of Advance Directives Is Better Solution 

(Portland, OR – April 17, 2015) Likely GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush’s suggestion to require Medicare recipients to complete an advance directive is a step in the right direction, according to Compassion & Choices, the nation’s leading end-of-life choice organization.

Bush made the suggestion today in Manchester, NH, while defending his role as Florida governor to keep alive a brain-dead woman, Terry Schiavo. Her family battled over whether she would continue to receive artificial feeding after being in a vegetative state for 15 years.

But Compassion & Choices proposes an alternative solution: providing incentives to Medicare beneficiaries to complete advance directives and discuss their end-of-life wishes with healthcare providers, as well as denying payment to healthcare providers who fail to honor patients’ end-of-life wishes.

“We favor a carrot-and-stick approach because without an enforcement mechanism, advance directives often are ignored,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “Terry Schiavo was a young woman, so her case is exhibit A of why adults of all ages should complete an advance directive and discuss their end-of-life wishes with their loved ones.”

One out of four older Americans say that either they or a family member have experienced excessive or unwanted medical treatment, the equivalent of about 25 million people, according to a poll last year conducted by the research division of Purple Strategies, one of the top-five most accurate polling firms in the 2012 election.

The Compassion & Choices website allows users to access advance directives for every state: www.compassionandchoices.org/what-we-do/advance-directive/.

National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16, Is Time to Make End-of-Life Plan

Compassion & Choices Website Has Tools to Ensure You Only Get End-of-Life Care You Want

(Portland, OR – April 14, 2015) Only one in four Americans has completed an advance directive expressing their end-of-life healthcare wishes, so Compassion & Choices is urging all American adults to make their end-of-life plan as part of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), April 16.

“Most people want to die at home, surrounded by their loved ones,” said Compassion & Choices Medical Director Dr. David Grube, a board-certified physician in family medicine. “Completing an advance directive is a key part of end-of-life planning with your family to ensure your healthcare wishes are honored.”

In fact, advance directives are associated with a lower likelihood of patients dying in the hospital, according to a 2011 study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association. An advance directive actually is two legal documents – a living will and medical power of attorney – that enable people to express their end-of-life wishes to their family and healthcare providers so they honor those wishes.

“If you do not put your end-of-life wishes in writing and appoint a healthcare advocate dedicated to ensuring they are fulfilled, medical professionals are likely to recommend invasive and painful ‘treatments’ even if they may extend your dying process and reduce your quality of life,” said Grube, whose mother refused to even discuss her end-of-life wishes and suffered as a result. “Completing this process provides your loved ones with evidence of your end-of-life wishes and formally notifies healthcare providers about them.”

Compassion & Choices’ website offers the best resources available to help you with your healthcare planning needs at www.compassionandchoices.org/what-we-do/end-of-life-consulting/.

These tools include Compassion & Choices exclusive Good to Go Resource Guide. It provides ideas, inspiration and information on thorough, effective end-of-life preparation. Compassion & Choices also offers an exclusive dementia provision you can add to your advance directive. An estimated 5.2 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Most advance directives do not apply to severe dementia alone. Adding a dementia provision ensures that families and physicians have a healthcare guide for the estimated half a million people who will die this year from Alzheimer’s.”

To prompt discussion of advance care planning, Compassion & Choices invites people to share bold graphics and the taglines “Ask me” and “Tell me” from our Facebook page (facebook.com/CompassionandChoices).

In addition, Compassion & Choices, in collaboration with 18 leading aging and healthcare organizations, is conducting “The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment” to encourage healthcare providers and institutions to honor patients’ wishes.

Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill Clears Senate Judiciary Committee in California

Second Hearing on Bill Inspired by Brittany Maynard Draws Hundreds of Supporters

(Sacramento, CA – April 7, 2015) Compassion & Choices today applauded the California Senate Judiciary Committee for approving the End of Life Option Act (SB 128). This is the second legislative victory for the bill, which would allow terminally ill Californians the option to request a prescription from their doctor to painlessly and peacefully shorten their dying process.

The passage of the California bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee comes just two weeks after the Senate Health Committee approved SB 128 by a 6-2 vote. The next vote on the bill will take place before the Senate Appropriations Committee prior to consideration by the full Senate.

“This is another historic accomplishment and a huge step for people who are dying from terminal illnesses in the Golden State,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices. “It shows that legislators are hearing the voices of terminally ill Californians who are desperately needing options at the end of life.” More

Maryland Death With Dignity Act To Be Reconsidered in 2016

The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act will move to a legislative working group in preparation for its reintroduction next January, according to Del. Shane Pendergrass, the legislation’s House Sponsor. She and Sen. Ron Young were lead sponsors of the bill in their respective chambers. Brandi Alexander, who serves as Compassion & Choices Regional Campaign and Outreach Manager for Maryland, commented on the decision in a statement on April 2.

“The momentum we saw in Maryland proves that the people-powered movement for more options at the end of life is truly unstoppable. Marylanders told their elected officials that aid in dying is a choice they want for themselves and their loved ones, and we have been very happy with the response we saw in Annapolis. The bill’s progress in year one was significant – exceeding that in most other states where new legislation was introduced.

“Compassion & Choices is so grateful to Delegate Pendergrass for her determined leadership, and we will continue to work with her and Senator Young to make sure next year’s bill gets the support it needs. Both of these lawmakers are compassionate public servants, and it has been inspiring partnering with them on this campaign.

“Death with dignity is an issue that matters to every generation, and our dedicated volunteers are the energy behind the amazing traction our bill got this year. All Marylanders who believe that terminally ill people deserve options should join the movement of citizen activists who are making sure those options are available.”

The Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act is modeled on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which was implemented in 1998. It would allow a terminally ill adult who is mentally competent to request and obtain a prescription that can be self-administered to bring about a peaceful and humane death should suffering become unbearable. It is a patient-directed medical practice called aid in dying, an end-of-life option in addition to hospice and palliative care. The law has worked for 18 years without any cases of abuse, misuse or coercion in Oregon. Similar laws have been in effect in Washington State since 2009 and in Vermont since 2013.

Visit the Compassion & Choices Maryland page for the latest news and ways to get involved.

“I don’t want my daughter to see me gasping for my last breath.”

Los Angeles attorney and former police officer Christy O’Donnell learned last June that problems with her vision were, in fact, Stage IV lung cancer that had spread to her brain. Facing an excruciating decline, O’Donnell would like to consider the aid-in-dying option; but it is not authorized in California. Although she thought about it, she does not want to move to nearby Oregon, because she doesn’t want to upend her daughter Bailey’s life and California support system.

O’Donnell was inspired after reading the story of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old Californian with terminal brain cancer who brought international attention to this issue when she relocated to Oregon to access its death-with-dignity law. So she has also partnered with Compassion & Choices to pass The End of Life Option Act in California and similar bills nationwide.

O’Donnell has been featured in People magazine and The Huffington Post, and she gave powerful testimony before California legislators at last month’s victorious Senate Health Committee hearing. “I don’t want to leave California, the state where I’ve chosen to live and work just to die peacefully. I have given my blood, sweat and tears to protecting the people of California for over a decade as an LAPD sergeant. I’ve spent the last 10 years upholding the laws of California as an employment law attorney fighting for people with disabilities and against discrimination in the workplace,” she explained to the committee, which approved the End of Life Option Act (SB 128) by a 6-2 vote. More