[Compassion & Choices] – An attempt to overturn the state’s new aid-in-dying law has failed to collect enough signatures to qualify a referendum for the November ballot, according to news reports.
“An overwhelming majority of Californians supports the End of Life Option Act,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices, which led the statewide campaign to pass the law. “Opponents simply could not inspire the people of California to take away options for people who are dying.”
Death-with-Dignity advocate Christy O’Donnell of Valencia & daughter Bailey O’Donnell (Photo: Compassion & Choices)
Despite support from the Catholic Church, which encouraged parishioners to sign petitions during mass, the mostly volunteer effort fell short of collecting 365,880 signatures by the January 4 deadline to qualify for a referendum. According to the secretary of state’s website, the group that filed the petition raised less than$100,000 to try to overturn it.
Once it takes effect, The End of Life Option Act will give mentally capable, terminally ill adults facing intolerable suffering in the dying process the ability to ask their doctor for medication they can take to die gently in their sleep. California lawmakers passed the bipartisan law last fall during a special session on healthcare and it will not take effect until 90 days after the session ends sometime this year.
Compassion & Choices recently launched a bilingual campaign to educate terminally ill Californians, families and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of the End of Life Option law.
“We are utilizing all our resources to ensure every Californian has meaningful access, through their healthcare providers, to clearly understand the benefits and requirements of medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option,” said Kat West, national director of policy & programs at Compassion & Choices. “We are educating both doctors and the public about the full range of options to relieve suffering at the end of life, including hospice, palliative care and medical aid in dying.”
Terminally ill Californians and their families, physicians, and pharmacists can call a free hotline, 800-893-4548, to access bilingual information on the End of Life Option Act. Through this hotline, practicing physicians will be able to access Compassion & Choices’ free Doc2Doc consultation program to speak to doctors with years of experience in end-of-life care, including medical aid in dying. Pharmacists will also be able to access the Pharmacist2Pharmacist consultation program. For more information, visit www.endoflifeoption.org.
The news of the failed referendum effort was well received by End of Life Option Act supporter Elizabeth Wallner, a single mom from Sacramento living with stage IV colon cancer that has spread to her liver and lungs.
“Death doesn’t scare me,” she said. “What scares me more is to have my only son and my family watch me die slowly and painfully. I don’t want this agonizingly traumatic image to be their last memory of me.”
Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life. More information is available at: www.compassionandchoices.org