Section I: Introduction

Hello, valued volunteers!

Thank you for your commitment to our mission and Compassion & Choices Action Network to develop an effective legislative strategy in your state or district! This toolkit contains guidance and resources to help you determine your elected officials’ and candidates’ for public office level of support for medical aid-in-dying legislation. This information will tell us exactly where to target our resources and help us pass and defend medical aid-in-dying laws.

In addition to gathering important data, your contact with these lawmakers and candidates will have the dual effect of raising their awareness about the broad support for medical aid in dying among their constituents.

You can collect information about where candidates stand on medical aid in dying on your own or as part of an action team. If you are organizing an action team, note that recruiting team members from a wide range of districts will yield the best results.

Thank you again for your dedication to the expansion and protection of end-of-life options, and your willingness to do the grassroots organizing it takes to succeed.

Section II: Step-By-Step Actions

Step 1: Contact Compassion & Choices Action Network to Identify Who You Should Target

Once you have decided to assist Compassion & Choices Action Network in determining where a candidate or elected official stands on medical aid in dying, please contact us at [email protected] or 800.247.7421. A member of our team will help you prioritize who to target in your state. For example:

  • If you are working independently, you will likely be asked to contact your elected representatives either in your state legislature, the federal government or both.
  • If you are working as part of an action team, you will likely be asked to target members of the entire state legislature or specific legislative committees.
  • If you have an active or upcoming election in your state or district, you will likely be asked to contact candidates seeking office.

Step 2: Determine the Question You Should Ask

Based on what is happening in your state or district, Compassion & Choices Action Network also will help you determine what question to ask your candidate or elected official. Examples include:

  • (If legislation is pending introduction) Will you support medical aid in dying if legislation is introduced either in our state [or in your committee]?
  • (In states where medical aid in dying is authorized) Will you work to protect our state’s medical aid-in-dying law if attempts are made to repeal it?
  • (If there is a threat in the U.S. Congress) Will you work to protect Washington, D.C.’s, medical aid-in-dying law if attempts are made to repeal it?

Step 3: Get Organized

Create a spreadsheet to track your interactions. This will help you organize responses to the question you are asking. In general, your spreadsheet should include:

  • The name, party and contact information of the candidates or elected officials you targeted in step 1
  • The question you will ask
  • Your target’s score (more on this in step 5)
  • Notes that you may have on those you are targeting

The following is a sample spreadsheet. We encourage you to copy and paste  this template into Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Google Doc or Google Sheet, whichever you are the most comfortable using. After you have contacted the candidates or elected officials identified in step 1 and recorded their responses, share this data with Compassion & Choices Action Network so we can use it to craft the best strategy in your state or district.

Sample Spreadsheet

*See step 5 for more on scoring.

Step 4: Prepare to Make Your Case

Once you have determined how you will contact your candidates or elected officials (e.g., via phone, email or written correspondence), it’s time to draft a letter, email or telephone script in which you ask the candidate or elected official to share their position on medical aid in dying. The most important things to remember when crafting this ask are:

  • Tell your story.
    If you have a personal connection to the issue and feel comfortable sharing it, be sure to include it and explain how it made you a supporter of medical aid in dying. Your personal story is much more compelling than a canned script and could help your candidate or lawmaker understand the issue in a way they previously had not. Visit the Compassion & Choices storyteller’s page to see some great examples of advocates like you sharing their personal stories at CompassionAndChoices.org/stories.
  • Share the facts.
    Back up your story with data and polling numbers that educate legislators, candidates and their aides. Please use the Compassion & Choices Legislative Guide as a resource to gather and present data https://www.compassionandchoices.org/legislative-guide.

The sample letter (or email) and telephone script below can be used as a guide. You can also use these samples as talking points if you meet your candidate at a public event or schedule a one-on-one meeting.

Depending on the question you ask, the highlighted paragraph will change. Again, please consult Compassion & Choices Action Network to identify the best question to ask your candidate or elected official.

Sample Letter or Email to Legislators

Dear (Lawmaker or Candidate),

I am a constituent in your district (District Number) (Assembly/Senate) and would like to know your position on the issue of medical aid in dying.

[TELL YOUR PERSONAL STORY IN A FEW SHORT SENTENCES HERE]

As Americans, we are free to choose how to live – and when the time comes, we deserve peace of mind to know that compassionate options are available to us at the end too. Medical aid-in-dying laws allow a doctor to write a prescription for medication at the request of a terminally ill, mentally competent adult. The patient can, if they choose, self-administer the medication to achieve a peaceful death.

These laws reduce needless suffering at the end of life and provide a gentle option for terminally ill people. Polls show a majority of physicians and Americans think medical aid in dying is good policy and support this practice across the political and religious spectrum, including Christians of all denomination (59%), Catholics (70%), Protestants (53%) and people of other faiths.

[Question options for candidate or elected official]

Option A: If you get (elected/re-elected), would you support medical aid-in-dying legislation that would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill person to request and receive from their physician life-ending medication that they can self-administer to bring about a peaceful death?

Option B: When (legislation) goes to (committee, name) would you support medical aid-in-dying legislation that would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill person to request and receive from their physician life-ending medication that they can self-administer to bring about a peaceful death?

Option C: Will you block attempts to repeal [state’s] medical aid-in-dying law that allows a mentally competent, terminally ill person to request and receive from their physician life-ending medication that they can self-administer to bring about a peaceful death?

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

(Name)
(Address)
(Email Address)
(Phone)

Sample Telephone Script

Hi,

My name is (name), and I live in (town).

I am a constituent/voter of ___________________.

Support is growing for medical aid in dying because people want the peace of mind to know that if they receive a terminal diagnosis and are suffering, they have a compassionate option. Medical aid in dying is not suicide. And because so many people have spoken out and shared their personal stories recently, it now receives support here as well as across the country.

[Question options for candidate or elected official]

Option A: If you get (elected/re-elected), would you support medical aid in dying legislation that would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill person to request and receive from their physician life-ending medication that they can self-administer to bring about a peaceful death?

Option B: When (legislation) goes to (committee, name) would you support medical aid-in-dying legislation that would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill person to request and receive from their physician life-ending medication that they can self-administer to bring about a peaceful death?

Option C: Will you block attempts to repeal [state’s] medical aid-in-dying law that allows a mentally competent, terminally ill person to request and receive from their physician life-ending medication that they can self-administer to bring about a peaceful death?

Step 5: Take Action and Go for It!

  • Reach out.
    This is the fun and easy part. Using your spreadsheet and talking points, it’s time to call, email, write or meet with everyone on your list.
  • Collect data.
    As you receive feedback from your candidate or elected official, record what you learn on the spreadsheet created in step 3. You should score feedback using the following scale:
  1. Supports medical in dying
  2. Leaning toward support for medical aid in dying
  3. Unknown or neutral
  4. Leaning toward opposing medical aid in dying
  5. Opposed to medical in dying

Step 6: Share Your Spreadsheet With Compassion & Choices Action Network

The information you gather is vital to Compassion & Choices Action Network’s work and the crafting of legislative strategy — the kind of strategy that helps us pass laws and protect existing ones. When you’re done collecting and recording your information, please email your spreadsheet to us at [email protected]. If you do not have access to email, you can also share your findings via phone by calling us at 800-247-7421.

Appendix: Examples of Completed Spreadsheets

Example 1

Example 2