At Compassion & Choices we litigate in order to improve end-of-life experiences and create the social change we seek. Our cases establish important principles of end-of-life care and choice. For example, the Bergman v Chin case established undertreated pain as a form of elder abuse, and Furlong v. Catholic HealthCare West sought to demonstrate an obligation to follow patient wishes regarding CPR and ICU care at the end of life. Our impact litigation is widely acknowledged to have brought much needed attention to end-of-life care, and to have established a federal constitutional right to aggressive pain management. Learn about these and other cases below.
Kathryn L. Tucker, JD, Director of Legal Affairs, leads Compassion & Choices’ legal advocacy team. Kathryn, a graduate of Georgetown University Law School, is a national leader in spearheading creative efforts to promote improved care of the dying. Click here to download Kathryn Tucker's full bio (PDF).
Compassion & Choices’ Legal Cases
Morris v. New Mexico
New Mexico physicians Katherine Morris and Aroop Mangalik are asking a New Mexico court to rule that the state’s statute against “assisting suicide” does not cover the medical practice of aid in dying. Compassion & Choices Legal Director Kathryn Tucker is participating in bringing this case.
Status: The case has been filed in New Mexico state trial court.
DeArmond v. Kaiser Permanente
Compassion & Choices Legal Director Kathryn Tucker is consulting counsel with California trial lawyer James Geagan in bringing this case against Kaiser Permanente, seeking monetary damages and an order that Kaiser, one of the nation’s largest health plans, institute policies to ensure their providers respect patients’ treatment instructions.
Status: The case has been filed in Orange County Superior Court, in California and is moving forward.
Hargett v. Vitas
This California-based case involves the unnecessarily painful death of 43-year-old mother of three, Michelle Hargett-Beebee. In her last few weeks, Michelle's family watched as she struggled with excruciating, almost continuous pain. Despite their advocacy and a state law designed to help patients make informed choices, she was never told that medications were available to her that would have eased her acute pain.This legal action is the first in the nation to allege that failure to tell a patient about palliative sedation falls outside the medical standard of care. Compassion & Choices has filed this groundbreaking lawsuit to seek accountability from the hospice.
Status: The case has been filed in Alameda Superior Court under the California Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Act. Defendant's motion to strike and demurrer were denied.
Aid in Dying in Georgia Defined
Georgia’s Supreme Court, in a 7-0 decision (Final Exit Network Inc. v. State of Georgia), ruled the state’s law against “assisting a suicide” is unconstitutional on free speech grounds.
Blick v. Connecticut
Connecticut has seen a series of widely covered and tragic cases in which a dying patient asked a family member or friend to help the patient precipitate death. Two Connecticut physicans are asking the court to clarify if the state's "assisted suicide" law reaches the conduct of physician aid in dying. The physician plaintiffs are represented by Compassion & Choices Legal Director Kathryn Tucker, Connecticut appellate specialist Dan Krisch and noted Connecticut civil-rights attorney Jamie L. Mills.
Status: The complaint was filed on October 6, 2009. Hartford Office of Division of Criminal Justice. However, the case was dismissed by Judge Julia Aurigemma on June 2, 2010.
Baxter et al v. Montana
Compassion and Choices Legal Director Kathryn Tucker and Missoula litigation attorney Mark S. Connell are co-counsel for this case. The petitioners brought suit against the state of Montana for the right to die on their own terms.
Status: On December 31, 2009, the Montana Supreme Court upheld the right to legal aid in dying for Montanans.
Gonzales v. Oregon
The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of choice at the end of life. In a 6 to 3 decision, the court ruled the Attorney General’s attempt to intervene in affairs of the state’s aid-in-dying law exceeded his authority.
Glucksberg v. WA & Quill v. New York
This Compassion & Choices sponsored case won recognition for dying patients seeking a Constitutional right to pain relieving medication even it results in death.
Sampson v. Alaska
Two terminally ill Alaskans challenged the state’s ban on “assisting a suicide” under the state constitution. This Compassion in Dying Federation sponsored case worked to give residents control over end-of-life decisions and the option of a hastened death.
Furlong v. Catholic HealthCare West
California resident Margaret Furlong’s son sued the hospital and staff that did not honor his mother’s written end-of-life wishes. When Margaret Furlong’s heart stopped, hospital staff performed CPR and allowed her to linger for 10 days in excruciating pain.
Tolliver v. Hospice House
Compassion & Choices Legal Director Kathryn Tucker and renowned trial attorney Dave Domina represented the daughters of Frances Tolliver, who died in unnecessary pain and anxiety in an Omaha hospice.
Status: The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a lower court award for the family of Frances Tolliver, September 2009. The lower court had previously affirmed that the hospice was negligent in their care of Tolliver.
Bergman v. Eden Medical Center
This landmark case was a victory for rights of terminally-ill patients to receive appropriate pain treatment at the end of life.
Tomlinsen v. BCC
This case led to greater awareness for the medical community about pain relief at the end of life.
Dr. Joan Lewis, Pain Management Physician, punished for treating pain in New Mexico.
Compassion & Choices wrote an amicus brief in support of Dr. Joan Lewis. Dr. Lewis was facing the loss of her medical license for treating the pain of seriously ill patients.
Dr. Harold Luke in California
Dr. Luke’s medical license was revoked by the State of California after administering morphine to ease a patient’s pain. Compassion & Choices filed an amicus brief on behalf of Dr. Luke, whose license was reinstated.
Learn more about the aid-in-dying movement by reading Milestones in Policy Change
VIEW DOCUMENTS IN OUR DATABASE»