WASHINGTON, March 14, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Compassion & Choices today mourned the death of English physicist Stephen Hawking and praised him for his support of medical aid in dying as an option for terminally ill adults to peacefully end unbearable suffering. Hawking had a motor neuron disease similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is the second most common disease among terminally ill people who request medical aid in dying.
"Stephen Hawking's death is a great loss for the scientific community, the end-of-life care community and all of humanity," said Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices. "His support of medical aid in dying inspired Sara Myers and other people with disabilities to support legislation and likely contributed to the enactment of medical aid-in-dying laws in California, Colorado and the District of Columbia."
In addition to the District of Columbia, California, and Colorado, four other states have explicitly authorized medical aid in dying Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington State. Collectively, these seven jurisdictions represent 18 percent of the nation's population and have 40 years of combined experience safely using this end-of-life care option.
"Stephen Hawking bravely endorsed medical aid in dying because he believed everyone – including those living with a disability - should have the autonomy to make their own decisions about the end of life," said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices and a former ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant who coauthored Oregon's first in-the-nation medical aid in dying law. "History will validate his vision of dignity and autonomy in living and dying."
Hawking announced his support for medical aid in dying several years ago on BBC-TV:
3:39-3:50 "I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives, and those that help them should be free from prosecution …
American voters with disabilities strongly support medical aid in dying, according to 2014 polls in Connecticut (65%), Massachusetts (74%) and New Jersey (63%).
Disability Rights Oregon (DRO) testified in 2016 that it:
"DRO has not received a complaint of exploitation or coercion of an individual with disabilities in the use of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act."
According to a Journal of Medical Ethics report about the Oregon Death with Dignity Act:
"Rates of assisted dying in Oregon...showed no evidence of heightened risk for the elderly, women, the uninsured...people with low educational status, the poor, the physically disabled or chronically ill, minors, people with psychiatric illnesses including depression, or racial or ethnic minorities, compared with background populations."
Compassion & Choices is the oldest nonprofit working to improve care and expand options for the end of life in the United States, with 450,000 supporters nationwide. For more information, visit: www.CompassionAndChoices.org.
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SOURCE Compassion & Choices