Compassion & Choices
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|Motto||Expanding choice and improving care at the end of life|
|Type||Legal and legislative advocacy, counseling|
|Barbara Coombs Lee|
Compassion & Choices is a nonprofit organization in the United States working to improve patient rights and choice at the end of life, including access to aid in dying. It was formerly known as the Hemlock Society. Its primary function is advocating for and ensuring access to end-of-life options, including assisted suicide.
With over 40,000 supporters and campaigns in nine states, it is the largest organization of its kind in the United States.
Terminally ill patient services
Compassion & Choices provides end-of-life consultation for dying patients and their families at no cost. Professional consultants and trained volunteers work by phone or in person to offer assistance in completing advance directives, make referrals to local services including hospice and illness-specific support groups, advice on adequate pain and symptom management, and information on safe, effective and legal methods for aid in dying.
Compassion & Choices litigates patient cases related to ensuring adequate end-of-life care and choice, represented 16 terminally ill patient-plaintiffs at the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Oregon, defeating the Bush administration's challenge to Oregon's Death with Dignity Act in January 2006.
Through litigation, Compassion & Choices protects terminally ill patients' rights to receive pain and symptom management, to voluntarily stop life-sustaining treatments, to request and receive palliative sedation, and to choose aid in dying under state and federal constitutional protections.
Other important legal cases where Compassion & Choices was a leading advocate have included Vacco v. Quill, Washington v. Glucksberg, Sampson v. Alaska, and more recently, Morris v. New Mexico and Pennsylvania v. Mancini.
History and organization
Compassion & Choices is the successor to the Hemlock Society, and Compassion In Dying Federation; the organizations merged in 2007. The organization maintains staff in New York, the District of Columbia, California, Washington State, Oregon, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, Vermont and New Jersey.
The organization's work is at odds with the views of the Roman Catholic Church and every national disability rights organization that has taken a position on the issue of assisted suicide, firmly opposes the practice, led by the organization Not Dead Yet. Disability rights organizations see assisted suicide as a form of lethal discrimination against people with disabilities.
Fabian Bruskewitz, former Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, pointed out in 1996 that members of the organization incur automatic excommunication, a judgment that was appealed to, and upheld by, the Vatican. During a 2008 ballot initiative campaign that would legalize doctor-assisted suicide in Washington state, Compassion & Choices was accused by Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist John Connelly of engaging in "Catholic-baiting."
- Barbara Coombs Lee
- Baxter v. Montana
- Death with Dignity National Center
- George Eighmey
- Oregon Death with Dignity Act
- Family Health Care Decisions Act
- Gonzales v. Oregon
- Brittany Maynard
- Vacco v. Quill
- Washington v. Glucksberg
- Washington Death with Dignity Act
- Merla Zellerbach
- "Role of non-governmental organisations in physician assisted suicide" Stephen J Ziegler & Georg Bosshard, British Medical Journal 2007;334(7588):295 (10 February)
- the organization has worked for recognition of a difference between the terms "assisted suicide" and "legal physician aid in dying" in the criminal code. For example, Oregon law draws a distinction between "suicide" and "aid in dying" for criminal purposes. ORS 127.880 §3.14 
- Schoen, Elenor Anti-Catholic Bias in Mercy-Killing Campaign?, NCRegister.com, October 19–25, 2008