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New Study: More Hospice and More Heroic Measures

Cover image care of Journal of the American Medical Association

New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association raises more questions about patterns in end-of-life care than it answers. Nine researchers teamed up to explore data from Medicare beneficiaries in an attempt to describe changes occurring between 2000 and 2009 in three important areas for those who are terminally ill: site of death, place of care during the last months of life, and number of transitions between healthcare facilities at the end of life.

Acknowledging prior studies had demonstrated an increase in the number of people dying at home and an increase in hospice usage, the researchers asked the (somewhat) rhetorical question, "Is this evidence of the success of hospice- and hospital-based palliative care teams?" Their findings suggest the answer might be "maybe" or "maybe not"—a not-so-resoundingly affirmative response to an important question.

The researchers explored information contained in a complex Medicare database, looking at records from more than 800,000 Medicare beneficiaries who died in 2000, 2005 or 2009. Data represent a random sample of those 66 or older who had a diagnosis of cancer, COPD or dementia in the last six months of their lives.

So, what were their findings?

Read more: New Study: More Hospice and More Heroic Measures

Vermont Senate to Debate Death with Dignity

Sen. Ayer responding to questions, photo by Kirk Carpezza of VPR

After hours of discussion today, the Vermont Senate voted 17-13 to allow debate on the proposed Death with Dignity bill (Senate Bill 77) in spite of the Judiciary Committee's recommendation to the contrary. Debate on the bill will take place tomorrow at 1:30 pm ET. You can listen to the proceedings live on Vermont Public Radio. If you can't listen in, they'll likely also blog about it live like they did today.

Senators who support and oppose the bill questioned the chairs of the two committees which heard testimony on the bill, Health and Human Services and the Judiciary, with most of the questions directed at Senator Claire Ayer, the chair of Health and Human Services. She deftly and politely responded to many opponents baseless claims and assertions and presented the facts available from 15 years of data on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act.

Read more: Vermont Senate to Debate Death with Dignity

This Week in the Movement

From Dr. Angell's article in The New York Review of Books

Throughout the week, we keep people up-to-date with information about the Death with Dignity movement and other topics related to end-of-life care through Facebook and Twitter. Below are highlights from this week.

Efforts regarding Death with Dignity:

Read more: This Week in the Movement

New Jersey Assembly Committee Clears Death with Dignity Bill

Claudia Burzichelli, photo by Patti Sapone of The Star-Ledger

After hearing two hours of testimony, the New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee voted to move the proposed Death with Dignity bill to the full Assembly for a vote. Assembly Bill 3328, introduced by Representative John Burzichelli, would send a law emulating the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts to the voters of New Jersey.

Among the people testifying in favor of the bill was Claudia Burzichelli, the sister-in-law of Representative Burzichelli, who told the Assembly about family members who would have benefited from the proposed law. Then 18 months ago, she learned she too has a terminal illness, stage 4 lung cancer. She floored the committee with her testimony:

On the days when I have struggled to breathe or think about the stresses on my family, I would hope I might have more options than starving myself or taking my life in a violent way. I don't know how I will truly feel if and when that time may come. But it comforts me there could be a another way, other options. I hope New Jersey will become a state that gives respect and dignity to those who are dying.

Read more: New Jersey Assembly Committee Clears Death with Dignity Bill

Will Vermont Soon Join Oregon & Washington?

George Eighmey, photo care of Patient Choices Vermont

George testified before the Vermont Senate Health and Welfare Committee about the proposed Death with Dignity bill (Senate Bill 77) last week. He observed the hours of hearings that went on throughout the week. Below are his observation of the proceedings.

The Vermont legislature is poised to pass an Oregon like Death with Dignity bill within the next few weeks. Attempts to enact a right to die act in Vermont have been going on since 2007, but it appears 2013 may be the year it finally passes. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin made passage of the law a high priority and has enlisted the speaker of the house and president of the senate, both Democrats, to shepherd the bill through the legislative process.

Read more: Will Vermont Soon Join Oregon & Washington?

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You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, nonprofit organization, has been the leading advocate in the Death with Dignity movement. Individual contributions helped us pass new Death with Dignity laws in Washington and Vermont, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the Death with Dignity movement.

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