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Washington 2011 Death with Dignity Report Attracts Little Media Attention

Robb Miller of Compassion & Choices of Washington

Robb Miller has been the Executive Director of Compassion & Choices of Washington—an affiliate of Compassion & Choices—since 2000. He was also one of the leaders of the coalition that passed Initiative 1000, the Washington Death with Dignity Act, with nearly 60% of the vote in 2008.

When the Washington Department of Health issued its third annual report on the Washington State Death with Dignity Act in early May, there was little interest from the media and no good news for opponents of patient autonomy at the end-of-life.

The lack of interest from the media tells us there was nothing sensational and no controversies to report. On the other hand, less media coverage means less awareness about the law.

Only 16 more people received prescriptions for life-ending medication as compared to 2010, and only 10 more died after receiving prescriptions. Of the 94 individuals who died, 70 self-administered medication, and 19 didn't—32% of patients who acquired prescriptions in 2011 elected not to take the medication. This is bad news for opponents who claimed that people who use the law would be anxious to die and would take the medication prematurely. The report indicates just the opposite.

Read more: Washington 2011 Death with Dignity Report Attracts Little Media Attention

Momentum in Montpelier for Death with Dignity Bill

Dick Walters, photo by A. Redlich

Dick Walters is the president of Patient Choices at End of Life Vermont. The article below is his reflection on the 2011-2012 legislative session which came to a close on Saturday, May 5th.

The majority of Vermonters support the Death with Dignity bill. They can be proud of the progress made in the 2011-2012 legislative session toward enactment of this civil right. The issue has gained real momentum in the state capital.

The Death with Dignity bill would give terminally ill patients with fewer than six months to live the option—the choice—to request medication that they would self-administer as a way to control the timing and manner of their death.

The recent death of Vermont Republican Congressman Richard Mallary demonstrated the real need for the bill. Congressman Mallary was a well-respected leader in our state, and for years he called for passage of this bill—even appearing at a press conference at the beginning of this biennium. Unfortunately, the bill was not passed before his terminal illness overcame him. The revelation that he took his own life without the benefit of the peaceful approach allowed by the bill reminded all of us why we are fighting for this change.

The progress made and momentum for passage is clear.

Read more: Momentum in Montpelier for Death with Dignity Bill

This Week in the Movement

Newspapers B&W (4)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.

Assisted death in the US:

Read more: This Week in the Movement

An Interview with Massachusetts Dignity 2012

Massachusetts State House by notafish on Flickr

There have been a number of recent developments in the Death with Dignity movement. When I was in Massachusetts last week, I took a moment to sit down and chat with Michael Clarke, the Campaign Director at Dignity 2012, to get the latest news on their efforts. Read more about the work they're doing and what you can do to help citizens of a third state learn more about important end-of-life options proposed in the Death with Dignity Act initiative.

Peg Sandeen from Death with Dignity National Center: What's the goal of Dignity 2012?

Dignity 2012: Dignity 2012 is working to pass a Death with Dignity law, similar to the laws in Oregon and Washington. We're focused on a ballot initiative effort to present the question to the voters on the November ballot. As you know, this is the same process which was used to pass the laws in Oregon in 1994 and Washington in 2008.

PS: How has the reception been so far?

Read more: An Interview with Massachusetts Dignity 2012

The Boston Globe on the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Initiative

Photo by Ryan Huddle of Globe staff

Last Sunday, the Boston Globe Magazine helped many Bay Staters learn more about the proposed Death with Dignity Act in Massachusetts. The magazine's feature, "Dying wishes", by Scott Helman contains a personal story about why two Massachusetts advocates are volunteering their time in support of the ballot measure, outlines the facts of the measure, and highlights the history of Death with Dignity laws in other states.

Perhaps the most touching story from the article is that of Heather Clish. When her parents were visiting Heather in Massachusetts, her father was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor—the same type of cancer Senator Ted Kennedy had. An Oregonian, Heather's father knew of his state's Death with Dignity Act, and chose to request the prescribed medication while he received palliative care and his family enrolled him in hospice care.

When his pain and suffering became too great for the doctors to relieve, he decided to take the medication. Heather and her sisters were able to travel to Oregon to be with her dad in his final moments:

Read more: The Boston Globe on the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Initiative

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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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