The nonprofit Compassion & Choices of Oregon provided this Q&A:
Why does your organization support aid in dying?
Our mission is to improve care and expand choice at the end of life and our vision is to have a society where people receive state-of-the-art care and a full range of choices for dying in comfort, dignity and control.
Is there any situation where you wouldn’t agree with it?
Aid in dying refers to the practice of allowing mentally competent, terminally ill adults to request a prescription for life-ending medication from their physician to control the time and manner of their own death. Compassion & Choices ensures that mentally competent, terminally ill adults have access to this option for a peaceful death.
Is aid in dying the same thing as assisted suicide and euthanasia?
No. Compassion & Choices doesn’t endorse either one. Assisted suicide is intentionally encouraging or helping someone with poor mental health and disordered thinking to commit suicide. Assisted suicide is a crime in many states, including Oregon and Washington, where aid in dying is legal. Compassion & Choices doesn’t support euthanasia because someone else – not the dying person – chooses and acts to cause death. Euthanasia is commonly thought of as lethal injection, is often referred to as mercy killing and is illegal throughout the United States.
Why do you think other organizations are against aid in dying?
A majority (65%) of the U.S. population supports the availability of aid in dying -- support consistent over 20 years of national polling. A small subset of organizational leaders opposes what they term “physician-assisted suicide.” They don’t fully understand what the aid in dying practice is or they have a morally-based objection.
What are opponents’ biggest objections?
In most cases opponents’ don’t fully understand the aid in dying practice, fear the practice will be abused or have moral objections. Fifteen years of experience in Oregon and subsequent implementation in Washington, Montana and Hawaii demonstrates that the aid in dying practice is not subject to abuse. It is a safe medical practice that can accommodate individual and institutional moral objections.
Has there been increasing support for your organization? Why or why not?
Baby boomers are facing death through their parents’ eyes and seeing their own fate. Their vision is clear -- we should all have access to state-of-the-art care and the full range of choices for dying in comfort, dignity and control. Compassion & Choices now has over 60,000 members and supporters, scores of volunteers, and 80 professionals in 13 locations across the country. We also have a growing presence via social media with over 6,000 Facebook followers. Compassion & Choices and the end-of-life movement’s growth is not only an accomplishment of our supporters but a necessity for millions of Americans facing end-of-life decisions.
How does your organization directly help people?
Compassion & Choices’ End-of-Life Consultation helps clients and their families through a simple call to 800-247-7421. Professional counselors will listen to your unique situation to answer questions about advanced and terminal illness. Some callers want to improve the quality of life they have remaining. Some are terminally ill and wish to achieve a peaceful death. And some simply want to plan ahead. We are ready to help individuals and families in all these situations. Counselors and trained volunteers provide information, emotional support and patient advocacy as clients negotiate often-complex choices in the dying process.
Do you think a place like hospice is good for end-of-life care/what are your thoughts on end-of-life care?
All dying persons should have access to the highest quality hospice care and pain management early in their dying process. At Compassion & Choices we advocate for the whole range of end-of-life care and options. We are here to help people receive state-of-the-art care and the full range of choices at the end-of-life, including disease-specific treatment, palliative care, hospice and the option to advance the time of death intentionally if suffering becomes intolerable.
If anyone were to come up to you and ask your opinion on the topic how would you put it in one sentence?
All people deserve to make their own personal end-of-life decisions from a full range of choices for dying in comfort, dignity and control.