Our Legislative Work

Compassion & Choices Action Network seeks to pass aid-in-dying laws for terminally-ill, mentally-competent adults. Compassion & Choices works to build coalitions which forward legislation strengthening advanced directives. Our Action Network also continues to work to promote pain and palliative care training for health care providers.

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Around the nation

We are monitoring the trend in the states to improve end of life choices. Follow the fight to secure appropriate pain care at the end of life all over the nation.

 Please click here to visit our Action Network.

Montana:

Aid in Dying for Montana

Those of us who value self-determination at life's end are fighting to protect the 2009 Montana Supreme Court decision which affirmed the principle that end-of-life medical choices are private, between you and your doctor, and enable terminally ill adults to request medication to bring about a peaceful death.

Legislative opponents of this most personal and private right introduced SB 116 by Montana Sen. Greg Hinkle to overturn the court ruling and eliminate end-of-life choice for Montanans.

Status: On February 16, 2011, the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee maintained the Montana Supreme Court’s Baxter ruling. The committee voted 7 to 5 against Sen. Greg Hinkle’s bill (SB 116), that would have revoked the right of terminally ill patients to request aid in dying from their physicians. Compassion & Choices-Montana will continue to monitor legislation throughout the duration of the session for other threats to the Baxter decision.

Read more about Baxter v Montana

Read more about Aid in Dying for Montana

Patient Centered Consultation Acts

California Right To Know End-Of-Life Options Act (AB2747, Berg-Levine)

This Act requires health care providers to inform terminally ill patients of all their available legal options for end-of-life care.

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Status: Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the Terminal Patients’ Right to Know End-of-Life Options Act, AB 2747 (Berg-Levine) on September 30, 2008. The law went into effect for California residents on January 1, 2009.

Palliative Care Patient Information Act (New York)

The Palliative Care Patient Information Act requires health care workers to provide comprehensive information and counseling on end-of-life options for patients diagnosed as terminally ill. This bill was modeled after a similar measure developed by Compassion & Choices in California: The California Right to Know End-of-Life Options Act (AB 2747,Berg, Chapter 683).
 

Status: This bill was signed into law by Governor Paterson in August, 2010.

Read more

Information from the State of New York on the Palliative Care Information Act

Idaho:

Health Freedom of Conscience Bill

In March, the Idaho Legislature passed the so-called Health Freedom of Conscience Bill (SB 1353). This bill authorizes health care workers to ignore the wishes of dying patients to serve their own religious and moral beliefs.
 
The bill would protect doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who choose not to provide aggressive pain and symptom management if they do so because of their belief in the redemptive power of suffering. If a professional's ethical, moral or religious views dictates that individuals should face death while conscious, they could refuse to provide sedating treatment to suffering dying patients, leaving their patients to die in agony.
 
Compassion & Choices joined the AARP and ACLU in urging voters to call on Idaho Governor Butch Otter to remove the end-of-life language from the bill. Thousands of letters and calls made it to the Governor, and he carried that message in his letter to Lt. Gov. Brad Little and the Senate that protecting health care workers is worthwhile, but the legislation carries some risks.
 
“Forcing health care professionals to provide services they find morally objectionable is unacceptable; however, negatively impacting patients’ rights — especially when it comes to end-of-life decisions — is equally problematic,” he wrote.  “Greater care must be taken to ensure that decisions within living wills and powers of attorney concerning end-of-life treatment are honored without additional burdens on the patient or family.”

Status: Unfortunately, though Otter did not sign the legislation, it will become law because he didn’t veto it, via the Idaho Constitution.

New York:

The Family Health Care Decisions Act

This legislation is designed to permit decision making by surrogates in the event a patient cannot make their own medical decisions. It is supported by Compassion & Choices and a broad coalition of supporters and was passed by the New York State Legislature.  The Family Health Care Decisions Act bill, A.8827, S.4992, requires the Department of Health to conduct education and outreach programs for consumers, patients, and health care providers relating to an advance directive, particularly a health care proxy, and the need and importance for health care providers to play a leadership role in discussing end-of-life care preferences and values with patients and to provide patients with health care proxy forms.

Status: Signed by Governor on March 16th, 2010.  Goes into effect immediately, with the exception of hospitals that do not already have Health Care Proxy polices enacted, for these hospitals, the effective date will be June I, 2010. Forms can be downloaded from the state website here.

Washington State:

Washington Death With Dignity (I-1000)

Washington is the second state to Legalize Aid in Dying! The Yes on I-000 Campaign has moved patient's rights forward. The Oregon experience shows aid-in-dying law benefits all at end of life. It provides comfort and control to  the terminally ill and ends violent deaths.

Status: On November 4, 2008, Washington votersoverwhelmingly approved I-1000 59% to 41%.

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Oregon:

Oregon Death With Dignity Act

In 1994 Oregon voters approved Measure 16 (51%-49%), the Oregon Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) by ballot initiative, permitting terminally ill patients, under proper safeguards, to request a prescription for medication from their doctors that they can choose to ingest to bring about a peaceful death.

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Federal Legislation:

National Health Insurance Reform

In April 2009, Compassion & Choices recognized an opportunity to increase the frequency of discussions between patients and their physicians regarding end-of-life treatment preferences. Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer introduced legislation to pay physicians in Medicare for discussing end-of-life decision-making with their patients, which initially became part of the larger health insurance reform package.

Status: Congressman Blumenauer’s provision was not included in the health insurance reform bill that became law in 2009.

 Learn more about the aid-in-dying movement by reading Milestones in Policy Change

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