More Steps Forward: June 2023 Note From the President and CEO

June 30, 2023

As I reflect on this legislative session, I am inspired by the progress we have created together. After decades of work, and significant success, we now finally have a seat at the table. Although we still have to aggressively push in state legislatures, and even go to court, we have reached a very important milestone in the medical aid-in-dying movement: consensus among lawmakers in authorized states that concerns about abuse and coercion are completely unfounded, and that medical aid-in-dying laws matter to their constituents.

Passing improvement bills still takes considerable resources; however, the progress is palpable and more expedient than passage of the initial law. As an example, this legislative session, lawmakers in Hawai’i and Washington passed legislation to improve their existing aid-in-dying laws. The two most notable changes were a reduction in the waiting (i.e. “suffering”) period and the expansion of providers — advanced practice registered nurses or physician assistants — who can support eligible dying patients in obtaining a prescription. Lawmakers in these states followed in the footsteps of Oregon, California and Vermont, which improved access to their laws in previous legislative sessions.

Of the 10 jurisdictions with statutes authorizing their medical aid-in-dying laws, we have successfully improved bills in half the states. New Mexico deserves a special shout-out for managing to pass an exceptional law — the best in the nation — the first time around. Now, passing improvements is not easy or guaranteed; however, the discussion and tenure in state legislatures once the law is already authorized shifts from hesitancy to a recognition of how necessary end-of-life choice was all along.

Furthermore, in response to our legal team’s successful challenge of the constitutionality of state residency requirements, lawmakers in Oregon and Vermont voted to permanently remove the residency requirement from their aid-in-dying laws, allowing eligible out-of-state adults easier access. (The Oregon legislation is currently sitting on the governor’s desk.)  When the residency requirements were first put into these laws, the stated reason was to prevent “death tourism.” The fact that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle now recognize the importance of making sure that terminally ill residents from other states have the option of medical aid in dying is extraordinary and further testament to how far this movement has come.

Unfortunately, lawmakers in not-yet-authorized states remain stuck in misinformation, inaction and partisan politics. And the end result is far too many terminally ill Americans denied access to medical aid in dying in their own state and to dying on their own terms.

The key to our continued progress is to figure out how to communicate the experience and conclusions of lawmakers in authorized states to those in not-yet-authorized states.

Of course the team at Compassion & Choices, working side by side with our extraordinary volunteer leaders, are busy evaluating, strategizing and innovating, as our mission is too important to allow misinformation and hyperbole to win the day. We are on the right side of history, public opinion and humanity, and with your support, resilience and resolve, our progress will persist.

Compassion & Choices
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Patricia A. González-Portillo
National Latino Media Director
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VICTORY: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the improved End-of-Life Options Act.