End-of-Life Options Bills Moving Forward Nationwide

March 22, 2022

This legislative session is showing great promise, with encouraging progress in several states.

Connecticut

The Connecticut General Assembly’s Public Health Committee gave a bipartisan vote of 22-9 on March 4 in support of a medical aid-in-dying-bill. Advocates urged lawmakers to approve the bill, which has been referred to the Senate for action.

“We hope the Senate and House will act with expediency and pass this legislation this year,” said Compassion & Choices and Compassion & Choices Action Network President and CEO Kim Callinan. “Terminally ill residents do not have the luxury for endless deliberations and delays; they need this option now.”

Compassion & Choices Action Network released videos featuring Connecticut residents who had traumatic end-of-life experiences, four of whom testified before the Public Health Committee:

Delaware

In each session since 2015, Representative Paul Baumbach has introduced aid-in-dying legislation in Delaware. He says close to nobody would co-sponsor the bill the first time he introduced it; now it has the support of major party leaders in both chambers. The Delaware Psychological Association signed on as a supporter of the legislation on March 3, and a 2020 poll found that over 70% of Delaware voters across party lines favor allowing the option.

Hawaii

On March 1, State Bill 2680 — with multiple improvements to the state’s medical aid-in-dying law — passed a joint hearing of the Senate committees on Consumer Protection & Commerce (CPC) and Judiciary (JDC). The CPC passed 4 to 1, and the JDC passed 5 to 2. This bill would change Hawaii’s existing law by:

  • Authorizing advanced practice registered nurses, in addition to physicians, to practice medical aid in dying in accordance with their scope of practice and prescribing authority.

  • Authorizing psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists, in addition to psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers, to provide counseling to a qualified patient.

  • Reducing the mandatory waiting period between oral requests from 20 days to 15 days and waiving the mandatory waiting period for terminally ill individuals not expected to survive its duration.

Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health advanced the End of Life Options Act March 16 and urged the Legislature to pass it.

“At a day-long hearing on this bill, the Public Health Committee heard harrowing stories from people whose relatives suffered during their last days. We heard about the need to provide a voluntary medical option for terminally ill people to control the timing and manner of their death,” said Senator Jo Comerford, the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “This bill affords people who are dying both the autonomy and compassion they need and deserve, and it protects potentially vulnerable people from any coercion. I am grateful for the strong advocacy which has propelled this legislation and will now work with House and Senate colleagues to push for its passage.”

In 2020, the Joint Committee on Public Health favorably reported out the End of Life Options Act for the first time since the original legislation was introduced in 2011. The Boston Globe, Daily Hampshire Gazette and Berkshire Eagle wrote editorials between May and December 2020 urging the Legislature to pass the End of Life Options Act.

Our legal team is concurrently working with physician Roger Kligler on a lawsuit to allow medical aid in dying in Massachusetts. Kligler, who was diagnosed with cancer 20 years ago, says his experiences as a patient as well as a doctor have informed his views on the issue. His case, Kligler v. Healey, went before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for oral arguments March 9. The case seeks to clarify that medical aid in dying is not criminal in Massachusetts because there is no criminal statute barring the practice. “Massachusetts courts recognize a fundamental right of citizens to make end-of-life care decisions, including the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment or nutrition,” explains Compassion & Choices Chief Legal Advocacy Officer Kevin Díaz. “There is no rational or meaningful basis to distinguish between the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment to a terminally ill person and a physician providing the alternative end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying.”

Compassion & Choices
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