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

Barbara Coombs Lee

Death-with-dignity movement springs back to life in California

By Steve Lopez
Los Angeles Times
September 30, 2014

Seventeen years ago, Oregon became the first of five states to offer what became known as death with dignity. Now a renewed effort is underway to add California to the list.

Past attempts have failed here, but Compassion & Choices, the nonprofit organization involved in the Oregon aid-in-dying movement, has hired staff in California and has begun recruiting supporters in Santa Barbara and San Mateo counties.

The group has held community meetings, lobbied local public officials, and is hoping to find California prosecutors who will agree not to prosecute doctors who prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients who request it and are able to self-administer it. A ballot measure is also a consideration.


Institute of Medicine Report on Dying in U.S. Praised by End-of-Life Choice Organization

Group Agrees Healthcare System Must Be More Patient-Centered 

(Washington, D.C. – Sept. 17, 2014) Compassion & Choices praised a new report by the Institute of Medicine that was charged with examining the “mismatch between the services patients and families need and the services they can obtain.”  The study, Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life, was released today.

“We know this Dying in America report reflects grave problems because we receive thousands of calls each year from dying people and their families,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who was an ER and ICU nurse for 25 years. “They turn to us because our healthcare system is not ‘patient-centered, family-oriented, and consistently accessible near the end of life,’ just as the Institute of Medicine acknowledges.”


The Power of You

Each of us holds the potential to effect great change. Grassroots initiatives like the end-of-life choice movement grow gradually, one person at a time, doing what we can to contribute.

It may be a financial gift, a petition signature or simply a conversation about why this issue is important. And all those individual efforts eventually add up to major results that influence decision-makers, change laws and improve lives at every stage.

Supporters all over the country are proving the impact of a single action. Dr. Rebecca Moss turned the pain of her husband’s dementia into an op-ed that was picked up by 30 different newspapers, spurring more than 300 readers to ask Compassion & Choices for our dementia provision. A growing number of politicians are making public statements in support of death-with-dignity laws and pledging to work toward their passage. Eric Kress, as the first physician in Montana to speak out about providing aid in dying to patients, was key to keeping that option legal in his state.

I thank all of you for the many ways you help make a difference; they’re all so important. Let’s each keep doing what we can to build toward a more autonomous end of life for everyone.

Barbara Coombs Lee

PA, FNP, JD, President

Educator/Psychologist Named Board Chair of Nation’s Largest End-of-Life Choice Organization

Chicago/L.A. Resident Nancy Hoyt to Lead Compassion & Choices Board 

(Chicago/Los Angeles – Sept. 4, 2014) Nancy Hoyt, a counseling psychologist and educator who lives in Chicago and Redondo Beach, Calif., is the new board chair of the nation’s leading end-of-life choice organization, Compassion & Choices. She and her husband, Bob Hoyt, have been involved with Compassion & Choices for more than a decade.

“Nancy understands the importance of education and psychology in any reform movement,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who was an ER and ICU nurse for 25 years. “Her expertise in these two critical areas will help us make great strides to expand end-of-life choices.”


Legal Expert Joins Nation’s Leading End-of-Life Choice Organization

DC Resident, University of Chicago Alumnus Named to Board of Compassion & Choices

(Washington, DC/Chicago – Sept. 3, 2014) David N. Cook, a veteran attorney and supporter of the end-of-life choice movement, has joined the board of directors of the nation’s leading end-of-life choice organization, Compassion & Choices.

Cook’s distinguished legal career has spanned more than 40 years since he earned his JD degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1972. Most recently, he served as general counsel of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and earlier as deputy general counsel of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C. Among his accomplishments at NERC was leading its efforts to secure passage of reliability standards legislation as an amendment to the Federal Power Act in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

“I know the legal challenges of implementing change in the legislative world,” said Cook. “Joining the board of Compassion & Choices is a great opportunity to use my experience to help implement change in the end-of-life choice movement.”