Compassion & Choices

Rating: 4.64 stars   14 reviews

Issues: Civil Rights

Location: PO Box 101810 Denver CO 80250 USA

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
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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I learned about this organization when I was looking for a group that deals with my concerns about having a choice about how I might die. I have had many exchanges with the staff , and I have started working with a group in Clearwater FL. I think these issues are extremely important, and I like the thoughtful, caring way this organization approaches them.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I counsel clients of Compassion & Choices. They are self referred to the local chapter. I engage clients to explore their choices for medical care when they know they have only a few months to live. Their legal options include some that are not normally discussed by Hospice or their physician. I join my fellow volunteers on monthly phone conferences where politics, the law, and state and federal legislation is clarified. My only role in the Compassion and Choices organization is to promote autonomy and liberty for personal choices of medical care at the end of life.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I have attended the annual training seminars conducted by Compassion and Choices managers to remain up to date on the law: California AB 2747 - the patients' right-to-know act - and other state and federal laws supporting "death with dignity"

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I can't think of any changes, beyond the obvious need for more personal and financial support for its mission to improve death with dignity in America.

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Rating: 5 stars  

36 people found this review helpful

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.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Training and support as a volunteer.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Professional and peer support

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Compassionate and helpful

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Bring the laws of all 50 states in tune with the majority of the population about choices in their end of life decisions.

Ways to make it better...

I had more clients

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Religious zealots who fear death

One thing I'd also say is that...

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Rating: 4 stars  

31 people found this review helpful

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.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

meeting the patients and helping them achieve a peaceful death.

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