Compassion and Choices – the organization that spearheaded the forefront of the original Death with Dignity movement continue to oppose efforts to expand Oregon’s law. Consequently, Oregon’s senior and disabled who have been diagnosed with painful, degenerative conditions continue to suffer year-after-year because of an outdated, overly-restrictive law. The leaders of Compassion and Choices have taken a “let’s not rock the boat” approach while they advocate for the same restrictive law in other states. This approach seems to be more about job security than compassion and dignity in death.
During the last year, End Choices has educated the public about the need for changes to the law through small group presentations, social media, and newspaper, radio and television interviews. We are encouraged that powerful critics of Compassion and Choices have begun to take its organizational leaders to task for their unconscionable opposition to expansion of Oregon’s law. Recently, the Final Exit Network newsletter published the following important letter written by Dr. Richard MacDonald.
Dr Richard MacDonald, former medical director of the Hemlock Society and then the Final Exit Network, sent this letter to Compassion and Choices in response to their appeal for contributions. There is a growing uneasiness that the l994 Oregon Death With Dignity Act, a ground-breaker, yet with all its limitations is being repeated all across America. Some, like Dr.MacDonald want the law updated. He wrote to C&C:
I, and many others with whom I am in regular contact, people who, like me, have been involved in the effort to provide choice near the end of life, have become dissatisfied with the approach that leaders of C&C are taking to effect choice.
Many of us have been active, truly active, since the 1990's and before. The reasons we will no longer support C&C are important ones, as one would hope. It has become evident that the leaders of C&C will not change the type of law that they promote in state after state, and that law is not a progressive one.
Insisting that no changes be made, for the benefit of those who are dying and looking for a peaceful, sure and timely dying process that they control, is regressive. And that is what C&C leadership has shown by opposing the suggested important modifications of the Oregon law, which, as most admit, fails to include those patients with the most lingering, quality of life destroying symptoms.
I refer especially to degenerative neurological conditions that will not be covered by the old law. Sadly, this older law, Oregon's original one, is being insisted on in any states who initiate a movement to pass a law. And, incredibly, C&C leaders are urging opposition to the modifications, putting them in alliance with the Pro-life groups, Not Dead Yet, and the Catholic church.
I would hope that some of the influential C&C Board members, and those, like you, who are in important, paid positions in the organization, will urge a change in the regressive actions being made by the leadership. Patients suffering from ALS, MS, Parkinson's disease and other neurological conditions, including dementia, are hoping for the suggested modifications to the law, so that they, too, may access the right to a have a peaceful dying when they decide their quality of life demands it.
Thank you,--- Richard MacDonald, Chico, California