Compassion & Choices: Giving the Dying a Voice


PORTLAND, Ore. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It could happen in an instance … you get into a major car accident that puts you on life support or you get a devastating diagnosis with a grim prognosis of only months to live. Dying happens to everyone, but how you die can play a factor in how you feel during end of life. Ivanhoe has details on what you need to know when it comes to dying your way.

For 43 years, Ben Wald was Pam’s whole world.

“Enthusiastic, you never give up, and that’s sort of his philosophy on life,” shared Pam.

In 2005, he fought and won his battle with colon cancer. But six years later his cancer came back, and it had metastasized to his lungs. It was stage four.

“Ben hung in there for about ten months and then things just started going really downhill,” continued Pam.

He was in a lot of pain, couldn’t eat, and went from 175 pounds to 118 pounds.

Barbara Coombs Lee, President Emerita at Compassion & Choices, says, “Most people die in moderate to severe untreated pain with their wishes ignored. People who are dying deserve better.”

“In America now it’s getting very complicated to die,” stated David Grube, MD, National Medical Director for Compassion & Choices.

Compassion and Choices is an organization focused on assisting people explore their end-of-life options. One of those options is the ability to choose medical aid in dying. The organization believes when it comes to end-of-life choices, three things are key.

“Comforting them, respecting their wishes, and trying to avoid suffering,” explained Dr. Grube.

“We don’t favor medical aid in dying over any other option. What we favor is that people really know their options,” shared Barbara.

Ben chose medical aid in dying. He was prescribed medication so he could die with dignity surrounded by family and friends.

“His last words to me were thank you. I gave him my last gift of love,” stated Pam.

Now Pam is passing it on and empowering others to learn about their end-of-life choices.

Ben lived in Oregon, which allows for medical aid in dying. Medical aid in dying is based on state regulations. Twenty percent of Americans live in a jurisdiction that allows for medical aid in dying. One third of adults who go through the process to get approval for medical aid in dying end up not taking the medication. Doctor David Grube, the national medical director for Compassion and Choices, says going through the process can be very comforting for terminally ill patients by empowering them to have a choice. He says in states with medical aid in dying, there has not been an increase in people dying, but there has been a decrease in people suffering. To find out more about end-of-life choices visit

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

REPORT #2893

BACKGROUND: It is important to have advance directives because many illnesses and complications cannot be anticipated. It is also important to discuss advance directives with family or friends. Rather than trying to anticipate specific scenarios, think about your goals for the time at the end of your life. Ask things like: is your goal to prolong your life by all medically effective means; is your goal to treat medical conditions, but avoid difficult measures; is your goal to maximize your comfort; or, is your goal to maintain quality of life, including the ability to do tasks you enjoy. These are individual decisions but are very important for guiding your clinicians in providing treatments that are consistent with your goals and wishes. They will also help guide the people you have chosen to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are not able to do so.


DEBATE WITH ASSISTED SUICIDE AND PALLIATIVE CARE: Many healthcare professionals and patient advocates hope the debates over physician-assisted suicide will boost awareness and use of palliative care and hospice care. Palliative care is patient and family-centered care in which an interdisciplinary team focuses on easing patient suffering, while hospice is palliative care delivered near the end of life. Both supporters and opponents of aid in dying say palliative care can improve quality of life for suffering patients and may reduce their desire to ingest lethal medication. However, there are patients who will still seek the death-with-dignity option, regardless of the quality of their care. “In any state in which this would be offered to patients, there would really be a moral imperative to make sure they’re not choosing it because they didn’t receive the best palliative care available,” said Dr. Joe Rotella, chief medical officer with the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.


 MEDICAL AID IN DYING:  Medical aid in dying is sometimes referred to as “assisted physician suicide,” “physician aid in dying,” “death with dignity,” or “euthanasia,” which are all incorrect. It is a trusted medical practice that allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with a prognosis of six months or less to live, to request from their doctor a prescription for medication they can decide to self-ingest to die peacefully in their sleep. It protects patients, offers dying people independence and compassion during the most difficult time, improves end-of-life care, and costs states almost nothing to implement, except for the minimal costs associated with collecting data and producing the annual statistical reports. To be eligible for aid-in-dying medication, an individual must meet all criteria: an adult (aged 18 or older); terminally ill with a prognosis of six months or less to live; mentally capable of making their own healthcare decisions; and able to self-ingest the medication.


* For More Information, Contact:

Sean Crowley, Senior Media Relations Director                               David Grube, MD                                    


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