The year of successes continues.
Last week an extraordinary legislative session concluded in California. The event launched a 91-day countdown to when the End of Life Option Act, a Death with Dignity law we helped craft and pass, goes into effect. On June 9 the Golden State will join Oregon, Washington, and Vermont in providing peace of mind for all those who wish this to be an option.
While this is great news, our work is not yet done. We at the Death With Dignity National Center have proposed to the original bill’s sponsors a bill that will establish an information line for the End of Life Option Act. Senate Bill 1002, End of Life Option Telephone Number Act, will mandate the California Department of Public Health to create a toll-free number where Californians will learn how to navigate the legal and medical requirements of the new law.
Though the opponents of California’s new law failed to gather enough signatures to put a repeal measure on the November ballot, they aren’t giving up. Detractors are mobilizing to take their desperate fight to the courts. And just as we withstood legal challenges to the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, we will prevail now.
In other states, we have made progress and continue working with local groups and supporters to build on our momentum.
While Maryland will not pass a Death with Dignity law this year, we have made significant strides forward. The mere fact that we had committee hearings in both chambers means next session we’ll be far further along than we are today. We are not giving up! The Death with Dignity National Center is committed to Maryland and will be working with the bill sponsors and other allies over the next year to bring the End of Life Option Act back in 2017.
The same goes for Hawai‘i, where a bill stalled in a Senate Committee. We continue to build a coalition of supporters and allies and raise awareness. We are also supporting our partners at End of Life Options New York in their sponsorship of the Patient Self-Determination Act. In preparation for next year’s session, we’re assisting our partner organization in Maine, It’s My Death, to raise awareness with educational events.
We are also doing groundwork for future success in states with no legislative activity around Death with Dignity. For example, we helped our friends Ohio End of Life Options launch a new email toolset and a website; in Virginia we’ve been providing strategic guidance to The Bess Project; and we’re assisting the Texas Death with Dignity with their online organizing efforts. As our accomplishment in Vermont showed, it is only with dedicated local grassroots groups that we can succeed in passing our legislation.
In addition to Maryland and Hawai‘i, you will hear a lot of gloating from our opponents about bills in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Utah, and Wisconsin going down in defeat or sidelined in one legislative way or another. What they won’t tell you is the truth:
Death with Dignity legislation based on our Oregon model is not only not going away, it is making progress every legislative session. Everywhere we have succeeded, progress came gradually. Each step on the path moves us closer to our goal. Step by step, session by session, we will continue to work with you to bring this end-of-life option for dying patients to every state.
We will not rest until every American has the freedom to choose from a full range of end-of-life options.
Thank you for standing with us.