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Legislative Advocacy News
Despite 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
Campaigns 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.
          Death with 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.
          The recipients 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.

Southwest Standouts
The sunny Southwest has become a bright spot for death with dignity advocacy.  Colorado passed an assisted-dying law in 2016; ArizonaNew 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 Canyon State.
          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.
          “The mission,” 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.
          “We’re planning 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 MarylandHe, 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 neutral.
          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.
 

 
Diane Rehm:
'I don't believe God wants me to suffer at the end of life'

Author 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
                                       as 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 years.
          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.”
            “I 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 personal belief.”
            Rehm 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.
            Her mission in authoring the book (as well as producing an upcoming PBS documentary),
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 the movement.
          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 us.
The End of Life Options Act:
A Religious Defense

By Sylvia Shaw, Massachusetts
Author Sylvia Shaw with her father, Daniel Binney Montgomery, 95. Montgomery is a retired Eastern Orthodox Church priest and strong supporter of assisted dying.
         
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 closely.
          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 very universal.

“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 them.
          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 new life?
          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.
 
Administrative Assistant
to the Chair of Arizona End-of-Life-Options:
  • 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
     
Special Events Coordinator
  • 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.3dmoore@att.net 
Arizona End-of-Life Options
March 11. 2020

EMail correspondence to: AZEOL.comm@gmail.com

Our mailing address is
c/o 15786 W. Merrell St. Goodyear, AZ 85395