Legislative Advocacy News
enthusiastic support from a number of state representatives and
senators, none of the 2020 medical aid in dying (MAID) bills managed to
move out of their assigned committees in the time allotted, so once
again this year there will be no movement on any MAID legislation.
At the start of this year's session,
Sen. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, submitted Senate Bill 1497 ("End of life
decisions - terminally Ill patients") joining Senate Bill 1384, from
Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, and House Bill 2582 sponsored by Rep. Pamela
Powers Hannley, D-Tucson. During the past three years, 18 sponsors and
co-sponsors have signed on to support MAID bills in the House and eight
in the Senate.
“Many more legislators have
unofficially endorsed this issue, so we are pleased with those numbers,”
according to Leesa Stevens, AZELO’s Advocacy Lead.
“We do have much more work ahead of
us,” she said. “For legislative passage we would need 31 House members
and 16 Senate members to vote for MAID bills. The last step would have
been for the governor to sign the bill into law. On a positive note, we
gained some valuable experience from our effort, will make a couple
of adjustments, and be ready for next year! Our next challenge will
be to increase the number of supporting members in the legislature.
Stay tuned for how you can help.”
If it's any consolation, our bills
were far from the only legislation that got sidetracked. According
to the Arizona Capitol Times, silent death has come for about two-thirds
of the 1,707 bills and resolutions introduced this year in the
Legislature. A February 21 deadline for bills to be heard in their
chambers of origin killed most of them.
Arizona qualifies for grant from
Death with Dignity National Center
aren’t won overnight. Successful policy reform efforts require sustained
organizing, strategy, and dedication—and the resources to support local
leaders for the long haul.
Dignity National Center has a longstanding commitment to supporting
advocates at the grassroots level, and this week announced awards from
the Dignity50 Grant Fund to help local organizations grow and strengthen
the movement for death with dignity in their states.
As an element of Death with Dignity’s State Leadership Incubator program,
the Dignity50 Grant Fund assists in the development of independent
advocacy groups working to promote death with dignity policy reform at
the state level.
represent a diverse mix of states across the U.S. including:
Organizations were selected based on
proposals submitted by a representative from each organization outlining
how they would use the funds to support their activities. AZELO
Chairman Ron Fischler developed, coordinated and submitted the grant
request for Arizona. The grant, totaling $5,000, will be used to offset
the statewide developmental expenditures projected for 2020.
The sunny Southwest has become a bright spot for death with dignity advocacy. Colorado passed an assisted-dying law in 2016; Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah all have considered bills in recent legislative sessions, as has their neighbor to the north, Nevada.
Ambitious Goals in Arizona
Arizona End-of-Life Options formed in late 2019, but the movement for
passage of a death-with-dignity law goes back decades in the Grand
Ron Fischler, MD,
who chairs the Arizona End-of-Life Options Steering Committee, thinks
recent shifts in the Arizona Legislature mean the political climate is more favorable.
Ron said, “is to pass a law permitting medical aid in dying by 2022.”
Given the fledgling organization’s early success in identifying
volunteers (240 to date) they’re well on their way.
The grant funds
will enable the group to reach even more supporters through email and
social media, host regional events to raise awareness of death with
dignity, and intensify efforts to educate legislators on the issue.
Kickstarting a Movement in New Hampshire
New Hampshire Death with Dignity launched in September 2019. The group’s steering committee hit the ground running, meeting with advocates and legislators and testifying at a hearing on the proposed New Hampshire Death with Dignity Act at the state Capitol in Concord last month.
Bob McCown, the
group’s co-founder and member of its steering committee, is looking
forward to kickstarting the grassroots movement in the Granite State
with the grant funding.
to formalize our organization and start the outreach and education
needed to get the law passed in New Hampshire,”
McCown said. This includes developing a strategy to build a coalition
with other allied organizations, hosting and participating in public
events, and growing a strong volunteer base.
Expanding Efforts in Ohio
Ohio End of Life Options (OELO) founder and executive director Lisa
Vigil Schattinger has been active in the death with dignity
movement for five years. In 2017, Lisa, a registered nurse, participated in
the pilot phase of our State Leadership Incubator program and since
then has grown OELO’s public presence, tabling at events across Ohio and
participating in local and national conferences pertaining to
end-of-life care. Lisa says OELO will use the funds to refine its
website and develop marketing materials “for a more effective presence
at community fairs and professional conferences throughout the state.”
Educating Lawmakers in North Carolina
Another State Leadership Incubator participant from 2017, Ed Tiryakian, co-founded Dying Right North Carolina. Over the years, he and death with dignity supporters from across North Carolina have
met with legislators on both sides of the aisle to explain why medical
aid in dying is not only a humane end-of-life option, but also one that a majority of Americans support.
Ed plans to build
on that strong foundation by hosting public seminars to educate
legislators, building a strong social media presence to raise awareness
among the general public, and persuading lawmakers to green-light a
legislative study on end-of-life options in North Carolina that includes
aid in dying.
“We hope to
educate legislators to the need for medical aid in dying legislation
[and] to the positive good it provides people,” Tiryakian said.
Building Momentum in Maryland
Dr. Michael Strauss has been working in coalition with local and
national organizations since 2015 to enact death with dignity
legislation in Maryland. He, Sally Hunt, and Richard Fredericks co-founded Marylanders for End-of-Life Options (MDELO) in 2017 to organize and focus their grassroots efforts.
Since then, the group has racked up
an impressive list of achievements, including endorsements by
high-profile organizations, support from prominent members of the
Maryland Legislature, and a decision by the Maryland State Medical
Society to change its status on death with dignity from opposed to
Maryland lawmakers are considering an aid-in-dying bill again
this session. Strauss and MDELO will use their grant funds to launch a
digital advocacy campaign to target constituents of key legislators and
encourage them to take action to help pass Senate Bill 701.
Additionally, MDELO will expand on its already-successful program to
patch through calls from supportive constituents to their legislators,
empowering them to contact decision-makers directly.“We’ve chosen a path
where we thought we could have the biggest impact,” Strauss said.
New Outreach in New Mexico
Since formally incorporating in 2016, the New Mexico End-of-Life Options
Coalition has harnessed the energy of more than a dozen partner
organizations to work toward passage of a death with dignity bill. The
Coalition played a key role in building grassroots and legislative
support for assisted dying bills in 2017 and 2019, both of which cleared committees but fell short on the House and Senate floors.
Barak Wolff, a
member of the Coalition’s steering committee, says the grant from Death
with Dignity will support efforts to “communicate more routinely and
robustly with our supporters statewide” through email and an updated
website. “It will also help our rural outreach efforts to engage smaller
communities about end-of-life issues and identify local champions to
help us improve our advocacy efforts to pass medical aid in dying
legislation in New Mexico in 2021.”
Val Lovelace (center) is Death with Dignity's State Leadership Incubator Manager.
Next to her is DwD Advocacy Director Peter Korchnak. Also pictured are members
of the New Hampshire Steering Committee (far left to far right) Bob McCown,
Cheri Bach and Rebecca Brown.
'I don't believe God wants me to suffer at the end of life'
and public radio icon, Diane Rehm, changed the trajectory of her career
following the heartbreaking death of husband, John, in 2014. She has
since devoted her time and popularity to the cause of medical aid in
dying (MAID), arguing that no one should suffer needlessly in the way
that her husband did.
By Robin Craig
Note: Robin Craig is AZELO’s social media coordinator. Her admiration for Diane Rehm
stems from experiencing the same end-of-life scenario with
her own father
Rehm endured with the death of her husband, John.
Hard to believe, but Diane Rehm is now 83 and still filled with the
creative talent that made her a favorite on National Public Radio for 36
During her March 1
appearance at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix it was clear that she has
another passion in her life that goes beyond her broadcasting and
publishing career. She was in town as part of a promotional tour for her
new book, “When My Time Comes.”
saw my own mother suffer at the end of life,” she says. “I saw my
husband of 54 years suffer at the end of life. And I don’t want it for
myself. I believe God supports me. I am a believer in God, and I don’t
believe that God wants me to suffer at the end of life. That’s my
shared the experience of her husband’s slow and painful decline as he
battled Parkinson’ Disease. When his suffering became unbearable, he
chose to end it by refusing food and water and died within 10 days. Her
husband’s death was a turning point for Rehm and compelled her to become
an advocate for right-to-die laws.
mission in authoring the book (as well as producing an upcoming PBS
is to, "shed light on the reality of medical aid in dying, the process,
who is eligible, what it means for those people who are approved, the
feelings of physicians involved, as well as the thoughts of those left
behind.” She provides us with knowledge to make our own decision by
sharing her interviews with terminally ill patients, physicians,
ethicists, spouses, relatives and representatives of those who oppose
She also shared
the need to talk about death. Yes, death is unsettling and perhaps we're
afraid of family disputes or perhaps we don’t know how to start a
conversation about death. Often, we are in denial about dying until it’s
too late. But breaking the silence on this topic allows us to set the
foundation for making decisions that align with our beliefs. Not
only do we need to talk to our family, but also with doctors, spiritual
leaders, and friends. Signing legal documents such as “Do Not
Resuscitate” or “Use no artificial means to sustain life” are not
enough. Rehm shared how we must overcome our fear about talking about
death so we can live with the assurance that our end of life will be
dignified and according to our wishes. We are the only ones who can
review our life, our beliefs, our values, and decide what is best for
The End of Life Options Act:
A Religious Defense
By Sylvia Shaw, Massachusetts
Sylvia Shaw with her father, Daniel Binney Montgomery, 95. Montgomery
is a retired Eastern Orthodox Church priest and strong supporter of
My Sister’s Death
Today’s palliative care helps most
people manage their pain at a tolerable level. Most of us can hope to
die without writhing in agony. But what about those terminally ill
patients who are not that lucky?
My family and I had to watch my
sister die of starvation when Bulbar ALS slowly paralyzed her tongue.
She begged for medical assistance to die. Texas law gave her no options
for escaping a dreadful death. Even though Massachusetts offered no aid
either, I brought her to my home so she wouldn’t die alone. Hospice was
wonderful in that last week of her life. But given the choice, she would
have ended her ordeal a lot earlier.
Do We Have the Right?
Do we have the right to legislate
that such patients must endure to the very end, no matter how much they
beg for a merciful death? This is a question that we need to examine
If Massachusetts were to pass its proposed End of Life Options Act, it would become the 10th state in the country to do so. California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Washington, D.C.,
have authorized via ballot initiative or the legislative process the
option of a peaceful and humane death via a self-administered medication
prescribed by the patient’s physician. (In Montana, death with dignity is legal by Supreme Court decision.)
A Religious Perspective
There are valid qualms on all sides
of the debate, just as there are valid reasons to support a more
compassionate way of dying. I wish to offer a religious defense of the
bill, not from the perspective of Judaism, or Islam, or Buddhism, or
Hinduism, or any other religious tradition for which I am not qualified
to speak. Instead, I offer these thoughts from my own understanding of
Christianity. And though I direct my observations primarily to fellow
Christians, I respectfully invite others from both a religious or
non-religious worldview to join me in examining this issue that is so
“Let God.” (But do we?)
Seven years ago the Catholic Church
in Massachusetts launched a vigorous advertising campaign against the
bill proposed on the state’s 2012 ballot as Ballot Question 2. It was defeated by a narrow margin.
Many of my Catholic friends disagree
with their church’s opposition to the End of Life Options Act. Others
argue that we need to let God decide our fate. I respect their desire
not to interfere with the Divine. But in our decision-making, do we
really step back at all times and ‘let God’?
Most theists believe that we have
been given free will—hence, the gift of making choices. If faced with
cancer, most of us take action: chemotherapy, radiation,
medications—whatever our oncologists suggest. We humans have developed
the means for delaying death as the end approaches, often by putting the
terminally ill on life support rather than step back and “let God” take
At heart, do we fear that death may
be the end? What about our avowed belief in the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come? Do we Christians truly believe what
we recite in the Nicene Creed, or do we merely give lip service to it?
If we truly believed in Christ’s promise to the crucified thief—“This
very day you will be with me in paradise”—would we still choose to let
the dying die in excruciating pain rather than to release them into that
Fellow Christians, let us affirm our
faith in Christ and in the afterlife by fearlessly allowing all people
of all faiths to choose for themselves how to meet their end. Fellow
non-Christians, please encourage our legislators to protect everyone’s
right to self-determination in this most personal of all decisions by
voting for The End of Life Options Act. It forces no one to act against
their conscience while at the same time allowing all to act in accord
with their conscience.
to the Chair of Arizona End-of-Life-Options:
Special Events Coordinator
- work from home 2-4 hours per week
- use our Google drive spreadsheet (we’ll show you how--similar to Excel).
- phone in to biweekly Steering Committee meetings, record minutes
- send group emails as requested by Chair
- help set up meetings/appts. with legislators, volunteers, etc.
For more information, contact Chairman Ron Fischler at: Ronfischler1@gmail.com
- Key member of Education Committee
- Help plan 3-4 recurring AZELO events annually
- Secure event venues and negotiate rental fees, if any
- Identify state/city/community events appropriate for AZELO participation
- Work from home 2-4 hours per week, plus longer during events
- Manage logistics of room set-up, materials, A/V and refreshments
- Supervise AZELO volunteers at events
- For more information, contact Education Lead Dwight Moore at: Dr.email@example.com