Most recently, the NY Supreme Court rejected a so called “right to assisted suicide.”
View the current status of assisted suicide in the states below:
Most recently, the NY Supreme Court rejected a so called “right to assisted suicide.”
View the current status of assisted suicide in the states below:
Watch the video and read the accompanying story:
Betsy Davis was too weak to kill herself.
So when it came time to end her life under a new California law for the terminally ill, her caregivers propped her up and held the cup as she drank a fatal mix of prescription drugs.
But physical assistance in taking the toxic medications is illegal, multiple experts contend.
Davis, a 41-year-old artist, suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The complications she experienced in taking her life while trying to comply with California’s assisted-suicide law are far from unique, a Des Moines Register investigation of assisted suicides around the nation found.
Such complications also offer reason to reconsider or adjust “right to die” efforts in Iowa, say both proponents and opponents of such a law here.
“This story and this data should give all Iowans reason to pause and to ask ourselves: Is this really the path we want to go down,” said Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life, a group that is most commonly known for its fight against abortion but that also opposes assisted suicide.
The Register this year launched a review of national data on assisted suicide in other states, prompted by renewed political debate over efforts to make Iowa the seventh state to allow doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.
But records on hundreds of deaths in the six states that allow physician-assisted suicide are nonexistent or incomplete. That makes it impossible to decipher whether applicable state law was followed or if vulnerable patients suffered unintended consequences, the Register found.
“Assisted suicide is nearly untraceable. There is minimal reporting and tracking,” said Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund in California. “It almost appears as if the practice of assisted suicide has deliberately been made secretive, all with the claim of patient confidentiality.”
Among the 1,642 documented assisted suicides in Oregon and Washington since the states began reporting statistics in 1998 and 2009, respectively, the Register found:
Golden argues for ending legalized assisted suicide based, in part, on the data. But others warn the information should instead be used to rally for better laws. That camp includes Jennifer Holm, a 46-year-old Ankeny mother with multiple terminal illnesses.
Holm has been one of Iowa’s most outspoken advocates for assisted suicide. She says the data tell her that doctors should be allowed not only to prescribe the lethal drugs but to administer them as well, to help avoid complications.
“I know there are a lot of people who say, ‘That becomes a slippery slope,’ but that’s just not true,” Holm said, pushing back against critics who contend the physical act of a doctor’s assistance would lead to unsolicited euthanasia.
Davis’ suicide became a team effort by sheer necessity.
“I didn’t know what to do,” said Heather Okray, Davis’ caregiver for two years who helped steady Davis’ hand as she drank the fatal mixture of medication and coconut gelatin. “They give us this completely absurd time limit you have to down your liquid in. And for an ALS patient — that I know every day can’t drink that much — we were looking for a Hail Mary there.”
Her withering body and what it meant to comply with the new law were very much on Betsy’s mind in her final weeks. “I’ve been meeting with doctors, and filing paperwork, and, well, this is my window,” she wrote to friends in an email. “I have just enough strength in my arm to self-administer the drug.”
But Betsy, one of the first patients approved under California’s End of Life Option Act, ended up needing more help than expected. According to her sister, a doctor at the scene told the group it was OK, but she declined to identify the doctor.
The California Board of Medicine and other experts consider that help illegal.
“At that point, our understanding of the law was that we couldn’t assist her,” Kelly said. “But we knew that no one was going to come and arrest — no one was going to get in trouble. But it was still just this kind of concern.”
Kelly and Okray, Betsy’s caregiver, were left with a lingering question: Is there an easier way to do this?
Suffering from ALS, Betsy typifies patients in the end stages of a particularly scary, ruthless disease that leaves them powerless. Many advocates of assisted-suicide laws would consider somebody like her in desperate need of such an option. Yet the very law intended to help such patients is written so that it might exclude her.
And the family was unable to obtain secobarbital, a drug commonly used in assisted suicides. Secobarbital sodium is the most commonly prescribed drug in assisted suicides and widely considered to be the most effective. But Betsy, faced with a local shortage of the drug, was unable to attain it in time for her own suicide.
So instead, friends and family devised a plan to make a gelatin concoction to help make the morphine, chloral hydrate and phenobarbital more palatable.
“I think out of all of this, that’s what makes me upset,” Okray said, “is watching somebody die like that and knowing there was an easier solution to it.”
Kelly said she also was troubled by the legal gray area: Had they violated the “self-administer” clause of California’s law?
The law defines “self-administer” as the “physical act of administering and ingesting the aid-in-dying drug to bring about his or her own death.”
Kelly said she was reassured to learn, after consulting with the organization Compassion & Choices, that “taking the medication needs to be a conscious, affirmative act on the part of the patient.”
“That doesn’t mean they couldn’t hold a cup that a person is drinking out of,” said Matt Whitaker, state director in California of the organization, which supports assisted-suicide laws. “That would be fine.”
A spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California referred to her organization’s analysis of the law, which, in its view, “permits a person who is present to prepare the aid-in-dying drug (but not assist in the ingesting of the drug) without civil or criminal liability.”
Groups like the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which has challenged California’s law, believe physical assistance is illegal.
Claire Marblestone, an attorney with the Foley & Lardner firm in Los Angeles, specializes in health care law and regulation. She and a colleague wrote about key requirements of the California law for the National Law Review.
The law’s requirements that patients “self-administer,” Marblestone said, is “a little bit untested.”
“It’s a very touchy subject with a lot of potential areas for gray,” she said.
California’s legal gray area now spreads to Colorado and may have consequences in Iowa as such laws reach further across the country.
Iowa Poll results in March showed 59 percent of Iowans favor allowing the terminally ill to end their own lives. That included a slim majority of Republicans (51 percent).
Iowa Republicans, including Gov. Terry Branstad, have not thus far supported physician-assisted suicide. But Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, noted the effort has seen bipartisan backing in other states. He believes the lack of GOP support for the option in Iowa might change in the face of public support.
The GOP has majority control of the Iowa House and Senate, beginning in January. Without Republican support, any bill on the issue cannot advance through the legislative process.
“I’ve not abandoned hope,” said Bolkcom, who plans to reintroduce a bill for the option in next year’s Legislature.
Bowen, of Iowa Right to Life, says her group is beefing up its opposition despite Republican control. She cited GOP lawmakers around the nation who have supported assisted-suicide laws. She believes her group must maintain an aggressive, ongoing educational effort about the issue.
“There may have been a Republican surge on election night, but we saw Colorado that night approve assisted suicide,” Bowen said. “We can’t take anything for granted.”
Forty-one-year-old Betsy Davis went through the screening steps with her primary care physician soon after California’s End of Life Option Act took effect on June 9.
By this time, the neurodegenerative disease known as ALS had robbed her of the ability to walk, lift her arm to her face, or eat and drink without choking. Davis, the focus of a Des Moines Register investigation regarding the complications arising from physician-assisted suicides, dragged her right pinkie across the smooth surface of an iPad to control her TV with what little strength she had left.
“She was done living with ALS,” said her sister, Kelly Davis. “She wanted to put an end to her suffering.”
Betsy’s family was unable to obtain secobarbital, a drug commonly used in physician-assisted suicides but in short supply where Betsy was living. Instead, friends and family devised a plan to make a gelatin concoction to help make the morphine, chloral hydrate and phenobarbital more palatable.
On July 24, about 30 people gathered at Betsy’s rental home in Ojai, Calif., including her three caregivers and her doctor.
After a final dinner of homemade tamales, Betsy was dressed in a ceremonial kimono. (One of her unfulfilled bucket-list items had been to visit Japan.)
She was taken outside and driven in a new Tesla to a favorite spot near a grove of fruit trees and empty horse stables. She was seated on her massage table, which was sheltered by a canopy, and faced west, toward the evening sky.
That’s when one of her friends discovered the Jell-O mix wouldn’t congeal.
“It was kind of like Elmer’s glue,” said Heather Okray, Betsy’s caregiver. “It smelled like it, too. Like a really strong paint smell.”
Most of the assembled group said their final goodbyes before Betsy swallowed the medicine. The doctor stayed to watch.
The massage therapist helped Betsy sit upright and then leaned her back as she drank the glop. Okray helped Betsy with the cup. They stopped just once to wipe her chin and make sure she was taking all of the mixture.
“(Betsy) just totally focused on getting all the medication down as fast as she could,” Kelly said, noting the drink had to be completed in a window of two to eight minutes to quickly end her sister’s life.
“When it got to the point where Heather was just actually going to have to take the cup and hold it for Betsy, that’s when we turned and, like, looked at her doctor,” her sister said. ” ‘What are we supposed to do here? This is going to take too long.’ And the doctor said, ‘Go ahead and hold it for her.’
“What we thought the law said was that Betsy had to take the medication herself. So it was this effort to not — that we weren’t the ones holding the cup. That ended up just slowing down the process. And her doctor said, you know, ‘Go ahead and hold the cup for her; that’s OK.’ Because if she didn’t take all the medication — if she fell asleep before taking all the medication — she would be in a coma for a couple days and wake up. She had to take all of it.”
It took Betsy nearly nine minutes to drink the lethal dose — about a cup and a half of what her sister described as “sludge.”
“As soon she was done, she was out; we just kind of laid her down, and she was out,” Kelly said.
“This,” Kelly said of her sister, “is something that she felt strongly about — being able to have this choice.”
Public records don’t yet show whether the complications Betsy Davis and her family experienced with California’s new End of Life Option act are common or a rarity.
Davis, a focus of a Des Moines Register investigation about complications with assisted suicides, was too weak to drink a deadly concoction of drugs without help.
Davis is one of the first to use the state’s assisted suicide law, which went into effect June 9.
The state’s first annual report compiling data on California’s physician-assisted suicides is due July 1. The California Department of Public Health is hiring two employees to manage data tracking for the End of Life Option Act.
That report, similar to those being kept in Oregon and Washington, will contain:
California compiles the data through forms submitted by “secure fax or mail.”
Within 30 days of writing a lethal prescription, the attending physician must submit a copy of the patient’s written request, the three-page attending physician checklist and compliance form and the one-page consulting physician compliance form.
Within 30 days of the patient’s death from the lethal drug — or any other cause — the attending physician also must submit the attending physician follow-up form.
The law requires physicians to submit the forms but does not outline penalties if they fail to comply. The Medical Board of California could issue citations and fines to physicians who don’t comply, as well as follow existing California law that would allow it to suspend or revoke licenses, among other professional penalties.
Des Moines Register
“No matter how much proponents try to portray their support for this misguided bill as compassionate, the reality is that the bill is anything but,” said Marie Tasy, executive director for New Jersey Right to Life. “The legislation is deeply flawed and will place the lives of our most vulnerable populations at risk of misdiagnosis, coercion and abuse.”
Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-22) reintroduced The Senate version of the Physician Assisted Suicide bill (S2474) on August 1, 2016. According to an article written by Star Ledger reporter Sue Livio, proponents are pushing for action on the bill by the fall of 2016. Read the article
Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3) reintroduced the Physician Assisted Suicide Bill (2451) in February of 2016. The text of the new bill, A2451, is now available on-line, is the identical to the previous version. We expect the Senate version to be introduced shortly.
Background on NJ Physician Assisted Legislation
The previous bill (A2270/S382) passed the NJ Assembly by one vote on November 13, 2014, but failed to garner enough support in the NJ Senate, and consequently, expired in the last session. Read the January 12, 2016 Press Release from the Alliance Against Doctor Prescribed Suicide here
11/13/14 State Assembly Vote
To see how your Two Assembly Members voted on November 13, 2014 and for background information on the Assembly legislative process in the last session, please click here
More information on efforts to legalize physician assisted suicide in NJ can be found on our webpages.
If you don’t know who your legislators are, go to the tab on the njrtl webpage marked, “Legislation” and add your 9 digit zip code. Once you add your 9 digit zip code, click “Go. A page will open that will provide pictures and names of your federal and state elected officials. (Helpful hint: you will need to use the scroll bar on the right hand side and scroll down to the bottom of the page to find your State Senator and Two Assembly Members.)
If your Two State Assembly Members voted No previously, please contact them and thank them for their No vote. Urge them to vote No again on A2451/S2474 if it comes up for a vote.
If your Two State Assembly Members Voted Yes, please contact them and tell them you are disappointed in their vote and that you expect them to vote No on A2451/S2474 if it comes up again.
If one or two of your State Assembly members are newly elected, schedule a meeting to speak with them and educate them about the dangers of Bill A2451/S2474.
Please continue to call, email and meet with your State Senator to urge him/her to Vote No on A2270/S382. Please also call the Governor 609 292 6000 and urge him to veto this bill if it reaches his desk. Thank you.
Senate Bill 128 stalls in Assembly Health Committee
California’s controversial assisted death bill is done for the year, according to the Assembly Health Committee.
In an e-mail to legislative offices, committee secretary Patty Rodgers wrote, “The authors will not pursue this bill this year – waiting on a statement from the authors explaining details and future plans.”
Senate Bill 128 would have allowed doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. It passed the Senate last month, but stalled in the Assembly Health Committee two weeks ago over increasing objections from Latino Democrats.
Past attempts to legalize assisted death in California also collapsed, but SB 128’s champions believed that public sentiment had turned in their favor. They also surmounted a major political obstacle when the California Medical Association silenced its longstanding aversion to helping ailing patients die.
But the Catholic Church remained firmly opposed to the bill, arguing that it was an ethical violation. Proponents were not able to sway a majority of members on the Assembly Health Committee, some of whom pointed to personal experiences that counseled them against backing the bill.
“You’ve got to look at what I’ve done before the Legislature … working to help save and protect peoples’ lives, giving that option – a second chance at life,” Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, who worked as an emergency medical technician, said Monday. “Letting folks have that option to end their life, it’s just something I can’t come to grips with.”
Some members denied that religious objections were a decisive factor.
“There are times when I can be in clear policy opposition to the church – clearly with a pro-choice stand as a Democrat, I can say ‘no’ to the church,” Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, a practicing Catholic who once weighed entering the seminary, said on Monday. “It’s more of an internal struggle of how to look at the end of life more than any impact of religious or political” pressure.
Despite passage by the House, Senate support falls one vote short.
AUGUSTA – Maine lawmakers have defeated a bill that would have allowed doctors to provide lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients.
Republican Sen. Roger Katz’s bill died Tuesday because the Senate and House failed to agree on the bill.
Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, said he requested that lawmakers on the House Health & Human Development Committee keep the ‘Death with Dignity’ legislation in committee.
“We knew when we filed the bill that we did not yet have a critical mass of support, but what we also knew was that the bill and the issue needs to be heard…,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we will continue to learn about this issue and see whether, and how we wish to proceed.”
Baumbach said he has plans to introduce a bill that would establish a task force exploring end of life treatment and choices in Delaware.
“Hopefully we’ll over the next six months we’ll have public meetings to learn more and hear more from each other and find best practices across the country,” he added.
By tabling the bill, lawmakers on the committee can always bring it back for a vote until June 30, 2016.
Patients would have to have an incurable and irreversible disease expected to end their life within six months. Two doctors would have to confirm the diagnoses, according to the legislation.
They would also have to be informed of all alternatives, including hospice care, and a mental health consultation is required if either doctor suspects any mental illnesses, like depression.
There is a three-step process for patients to receive the life-ending medicine, according to the legislation. A patient would have to make the initial request, then there would be a 15-day wait, another request, then a two-day wait, and then the patient would receive the prescription pills. After ninety days the initial request would expire.
According to the legislation patients can rescind their request at any time.
Doctors and healthcare providers are also able to choose whether or not they participate and can opt-out as well. Doctors and healthcare providers are protected from any retaliation under the legislation, according to the bill.
Oregon, Vermont and Washington have similar laws. Court decisions in Montana and New Mexico also have allowed the practice in those states.
Contact Jon Offredo at (302) 678-4271, on Twitter @JonOffredo or email@example.com
Aid-In-Dying Bill Fails To Get A Vote By Legislative Committee
Tim Appleton, Connecticut campaign manager for Compassion and Choices, spoke in favor of aid-in-dying legislation at the Capitol on March 16. (Michael McAndrews)
By Daniela Altimari contact the reporter Laws and Legislation Connecticut General Assembly
Aid-in-dying bill fails to come to a vote in the legislature’s Judiciary Committee
HARTFORD — For the third time in three years, aid-in-dying legislation has stalled at the state Capitol.
Advocates on both sides of the emotional issue say the legislature’s Judiciary Committee has opted not to vote on House Bill 7015, which would have permitted terminally ill patients to request a doctor’s help to end their lives. The measure is unlikely to move forward without the committee’s endorsement.
“Each year that lawmakers fail to act prolongs the suffering for thousands of terminally ill Connecticut residents and the people who love them,” said Tim Appleton, Connecticut campaign director for Compassion & Choices, a national group promoting aid-in-dying legislation in statehouses around the nation.
Letting Important Bills Die Is A Craven Way To Govern
Letting Important Bills Die Is A Craven Way To Govern
Supporters said the proposal would have allowed mentally competent patients with fewer than six months to live the chance for a dignified death, free of pain.
“About 7,000 people will die from cancer this year in Connecticut without having this choice. Many will endure painful deaths. They should have the choice — to die peacefully, with dignity, and on their terms,” Appleton said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
Critics denounced the concept as “assisted suicide” and said it devalues life and leaves people with disabilities vulnerable to coercion.
Led by the Catholic bishops, a broad coalition that includes disability rights activists, hospice providers and the Connecticut State Medical Society joined together to stop the bill. The church funded a multimedia ad campaign aimed at swaying public opinion against the proposal.
Michael C. Culhane, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference, said he was “thrilled” but not surprised by the committee’s decision to forgo a vote on the bill. Opponents have been counting votes since the bill was drafted in February and knew support was weak, he said.
Culhane said the measure’s failure to move forward was due to a large and diverse coalition that worked together to persuade legislators that the bill was bad public policy.
“It was a collective effort that produced the results that were announced today,” he said.
Catholic Church Poised For Pivotal Role In Aid-In-Dying Bill
Catholic Church Poised For Pivotal Role In Aid-In-Dying Bill
Appleton had strong words for the Catholic Church. “The Church lobby has a history of driving fear of change, and they are spending an incredible amount of funds trying to do just that in Connecticut,” he said.
The bill was the subject of a long and often emotional public hearing last month, drawing hundreds of people who shared raw, often personal stories of a loved one’s demise or their own struggle with a terminal illness.
In the three times the legislature has considered such a bill since 2013, the bills never received a committee vote, one of the first steps in the legislative process. In theory, the concept could be raised on the floor of the House or the Senate as an amendment, but most observers consider that unlikely.
“We would urge the General Assembly to focus on improving hospice, palliative care and home care … rather than continue to waste time on an issue that has now been rejected three years in a row without a committee vote,” said Stephen Mendelsohn, a disability rights activist with the group Second Thoughts Connecticut. “Three strikes and you are out.”
Appleton and other supporters remain confident the concept eventually will win approval in Connecticut. They point to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted last month that found nearly 2-to-1 support for aid-in-dying.
“Civil rights issues such as gay marriage took many years to gain approval in Connecticut, and today the majority of people cannot imagine a time when marriage equality was not fully accepted here,” Appleton said. “Today, 63 percent of Connecticut voters support aid-in-dying, a percentage that has increased from previous years. We believe that, like gay marriage and other issues of personal choice, aid in dying will continue to gain support and approval by the legislature. Aid-in-dying will eventually become the law in Connecticut.”
Three states — Oregon, Washington and Vermont — have laws allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medications to terminally ill patients. Courts in both New Mexico and Montana have found aid in dying legal, and a lawsuit seeking a similar ruling was recently filed in New York.
Meanwhile, an aid-in-dying bill is moving through the California legislature, fueled in part by the death of brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard, who moved from California to Oregon because she sought a physician’s help in ending her life. California’s End of Life Option Act cleared the Senate judiciary committee earlier this week.
But other states have rejected the concept. Voters in Massachusetts defeated a 2012 ballot initiative that would have legalized aid-in-dying.
Culhane said he expects proponents to continue trying to win approval in Connecticut.
“I assume they’re going to be back,” Culhane said. “The concept of aid-in-dying is being pursued across the country and the proponents would love to grab a success.”
Copyright © 2015, Hartford Courant
Death with dignity’ bill extinguished without a vote
By Erin Cox
The Baltimore Sun
contact the reporter Maryland General Assembly
Lawmakers pull plug on ‘death with dignity’ bill without a vote.
Right-to-die legislation that sparked emotional debate in Annapolis will not be voted on this year.
Maryland leaders delay any action on right-to-die bills until next year.
Hope ended Wednesday for those who wanted Maryland to pass a “death with dignity” law this year.
Leaders of two key committees considering a bill that would have allowed doctors to prescribe medicine to help terminally ill patients end their lives decided not to vote on the proposal, effectively killing it.
“It’s a good approach,” Del. Shane Pendergrass, a Howard County Democrat who pushed the legislation. “These kinds of large issues take a certain amount of deliberating,” she said. “They also require some time for people to think about this. We have a lot of freshmen who want to go back to their districts, that they’re not used to representing, and see what they people think.”
Key negotiators said it became clear that the proposal might have had enough votes to pass out of a joint House Committee, but it could spur a bruising debate on the floor. House leaders said they decided to forgo a vote rather than undertake a potentially losing one.
Opponents of the law celebrated its quiet death.
“We are absolutely delighted that the committees realized that this bill would not work for Marylanders,” said Sam Crane, director of public policy for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and a member of the MD Coalition Against Physician Assisted Suicide.
Crane’s group, religious organizations, mental health groups and disability advocates had argued that the bill would sanction death for people who relied on others to care for them and could put some the state’s most vulnerable populations at risk.
Maryland was among more than 15 states weighing right-to-die legislation this year, part of a nationwide movement sparked by the advocacy of 29-year-old brain tumor patient Brittany Maynard.
Maynard drew attention by chronicling the final months of her life. She ended it last fall under a right-to-die law in Oregon, one of only five states with such a policy.
The spate of legislation is a rapid reversal from 15 years ago, when states across the country banned physician-assisted suicide in response to the efforts of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Maryland made the practice a felony in 1999.
The bill would have allowed patients with a terminal diagnosis and a prognosis of less than six months to obtain a prescription for a lethal dose of a drug. The patient would have been required to take the drug without assistance.
Former Ravens linebacker O.J. Brigance traveled to Annapolis this year to ask lawmakers to reject state-sanctioned death for people with terminal conditions.
Brigance, who was diagnosed in 2007 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig’s disease — speaks through a machine. He told lawmakers that choosing to live with his degenerative condition has “done a greater good for society in eight years than my previous 37 years on earth.”
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun