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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Civil Rights, Right to Die & Euthanasia

Mission: To improve care and expand choice at the end of life. We support, educate and advocate.

Results: 2009 Milestones On January 1, the Terminal Patients’ Right to Know End-of-Life Options Act, AB 2747 (Berg-Levine) goes into effect in California. Read more about the Terminal Patients’ Right to Know End-of-Life Options Act here. Compassion & Choices calls on the Obama Administration to repeal last-minute regulations allowing denial of medical services based on health care worker religious beliefs. On March 5, Washington’s Death with Dignity Act begins implementation. As the health insurance reform debate heats up in Washington and around the country, Compassion & Choices aggressively responds to mis-information campaign launched by opponents of end-of-life choice to undermine a key provision of health insurance reform. Recent action and statements indicate the end-of-life consultation provision may survive in a final health care bill. Read more about end-of-life choices in health insurance reform here. On October 7, Compassion & Choices Legal Director, Kathryn Tucker, files suit in Connecticut on behalf of two Connecticut physicians, Gary Blick and Ron Levine, asserting that the Connecticut statute which makes a crime of assisting someone to “commit suicide” does not reach the conduct of a physician providing aid in dying. Read more about Blick at al v. Connecticut here. On October 29th, Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon stood with leaders of the House of Representatives as they unveiled House Resolution 3200, Section 1233, the Life Sustaining Treatment Preferences Act of 2009 that would provide coverage under the Medicare Program for consultations regarding POLST. Senator Jay Rockefeller champions end-of-life care in his in his report to the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform legislation. Compassion & Choices continues work to assure end-of-life choice remains a key component of final health insurance reform package. On October 13-14, Compassion & Choices hosts “Dignity & Choices, A Symposium on End-of-Life Advocacy” in Washington, DC. Two days of discussion, exploration and study, Dignity & Choices provides an opportunity to promote principles and practices that focus on patients. Physicians, social workers, nurses, attorneys and advocates for end-of-life choice filled the National Press Club to hear aspects of end-of-life care rarely discussed and illuminate the way forward. Watch video highlights from Dignity & Choices here. On December 31, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in favor of the landmark case brought by Compassion & Choices (Baxter v. Montana) affirming that it is not against public policy of the state of Montana for a physician to provide aid in dying to a mentally competent, terminally ill individual. Read more about Baxter v. Montana here. 2010 Milestones The Older Women’s League (OWL) devotes its 30th anniversary Mother’s Day Report to end-of-life choices and hosts a Capitol Hill policy briefing on the issue. The report features a piece, “Aid in Dying: A Matter of Elder Justice and Civil Rights,” by Kathryn Tucker, Compassion & Choices Director of Legal Affairs. On June 2 Blick et al v. Connecticut is dismissed without reaching the merits, on sovereign immunity grounds, denying plaintiffs the opportunity to make their case to distinguish committing “suicide” from a mentally competent terminally ill patient ingesting medications to bring about a peaceful death. New York passes the Palliative Care Information Act (PCIA) in August. The law, drafted by Compassion & Choices and modeled after a similar measure in CA, requires healthcare workers to provide information and counseling on end-of-life options.. Compassion & Choices files the groundbreaking lawsuit Hargett v. Vitas seeking accountability for the unnecessarily painful death of 43-year-old mother of three, Michelle Hargett-Beebee, who was never informed of the availability of palliative sedation. This is the first case in the nation to allege that failure to tell a patient about palliative sedation falls outside the standard of care. 2011 Milestones Legislative opponents introduced SB 116 in Montana, to nullify the Montana Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Baxter v Montana, a case litigated by Compassion & Choices. The Montana Medical Association testified in official opposition to the measure. On February 16 the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee declined to adopt this measure, preserving the option of aid in dying for Montanans. A bill amending Washington’s Death with Dignity Act, SB 5378, fails to pass out of committee, in response to Compassion & Choices proactive efforts and voter support. SB5378 would have amended the section of DWDA specifying deaths under the Act do not constitute “suicide.” Compassion & Choices launches successful public campaign throughout Oregon to defeat HB 2016, a bill requiring all terminally ill patients who request aid in dying to undergo psychiatric evaluation. The Oregon House HealthCare Committee holds no hearing or work session on HB 2016.

Geographic areas served: Nationwide

Community Stories

27 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I raise the subject among friends about personal choice in dying, there is broad agreement that they would like to have control of their death. Since my training as a Compassion & Choices volunteer I have had excellent support from the professional team in being informed before visiting a client and throughout the process of supporting the client. I am pleased that Washington State has followed the Oregon model and am hopeful that my state, Florida will begin to see the light.

2

Board Member

Rating: 5

I was so pleased to be introduced to this organization who are effectively and efficiently dealing with an issue so dear to my heart. Contributing to this organisation, with both time and money, is one of the most rewarding things in my life. Compassion & Choices are the one organisation that advocates for individual autonomy and dignity through choices at the end of life AND for changes to the law across the country to increase the information and choices available to patients. My grandmother was able to make her own decisions regarding her death from cancer, and she died on her own terms at home with her family around her - it was truly a good death and one I wish everyone could emulate. C&C works to empower patients so that the medical system is more helpful and responsive to the dying. When someone is terminally ill it is an immense comfort to them (and their loved ones) to know that they can make the important decisions about the end of their life.

6 Ann Thompson

Donor

Rating: 5

Thirty five years ago, when my parents were in their 60s, they wrote their first advanced directives. Every time we visited, they spoke passionately about their wishes not to be kept alive after quality of life was gone, nor to have money spent that could be used to help people in need. Now I’m in my 60s and I can see that many people still don’t have the opportunity to die peacefully and in the manner of their choosing. I’m grateful for Compassion & Choices’ commitment to keep this conversation alive until every state provides for end-of-life dignity.

23

Client Served

Rating: 5

Finding Compassion & Choices when my mother was diagnosed with late stage Ovarian Cancer was literally a life saver. Both my parents loved life, lived it fully, and always made clear that when they could no longer do so,they wanted to die with dignity. The counseling services and support we received were phenomenal. Once my mother knew that her end-of-life decisions could be honored, she lived the last months of her life with the same spirit and zest that characterized her. After she died, there was no question in my mind that I would work with Compassion and Choices to ensure that we can all have that same freedom of mind and heart at the end of life.

31 JUDITH Bortz

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Friends sometimes ask me how I can work with clients who are dying. Isn't it difficult? Depressing? Here's my answer: I've been a volunteer with Compassion and Choices for more than four years and find it enriching, important work. Supporting patients and their families at a critical time is rewarding. One of my clients, S., diagnosed with terminal cancer ,wrote the following after finding Compassion and Choices: "I now have the knowledge that I don't have to suffer, and that information is enough to give me a new life. I simply needed to know that I could have control over my life." He died peacefully 20 months later. Whether it's assisting someone to complete an Advance Directive, talk to a doctor about end-of-life wishes, find a hospice, or just to be there to help a client make sense of the dying process, I find my work for Compassion and Choices deeply satisfying.

29

Donor

Rating: 5

Compassion & Choices is THE national end-of-life choices organization. I have been a donor for many years and continue to be impressed with the creative and excellent work of the organization. C&C uses every tool possible to get its message of choice to the public, government officials and its members. This last year alone they passed a law in California, won a court case in Montana and passed a ballot measure in the state of Washington. On the client side, the care is supportive and responsive. C&C has helped pave the way for people across the country to know and exercise their choices at the end of life.

27

Board Member

Rating: 5

C&C has had a remarkable track record of success in helping patients, educating legislators, press and the public, and pushing for legislation that will permit Aid-in-Dying. The Washington victory this past November is a wonderful step forward, and supporters should feel very confident their contributions are being very well used.