Compassion & Choices

Compassion & Choices
Motto Expanding choice and improving care at the end of life
Type Legal and legislative advocacy, counseling
Headquarters Denver, Colorado
Key people
Barbara Coombs Lee

Compassion & Choices is a nonprofit organization in the United States working to improve patient rights and individual choice at the end of life, including access to medical aid in dying. Its primary function is advocating for and ensuring access to end-of-life options.[1][2]

With over 65,000 supporters and campaigns in nine states, it is the largest organization of its kind in the United States.

History and organization

Compassion & Choices is the successor to the Hemlock Society,[3] and Compassion In Dying Federation; the organizations merged in 2007. The organization maintains staff in New York, the District of Columbia, California, Washington State (they dismissed WA state staff in 2016; the local org is independent and unaffiliated) Oregon, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, Vermont and New Jersey.

End-of-life consultation program

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.

The organization's work is highlighted in the documentary film How to Die in Oregon which won the 2011 Grand Jury Prize[4] at the Sundance Film Festival.

Access campaigns

Compassion & Choices integrates medical aid in dying into healthcare by implementing and normalizing them into the standard of care after laws are passed in individual states.

Compassion & Choices litigates patient cases related to ensuring adequate end-of-life care and choice. 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.

Vacco v. Quill

In 1997, Vacco v. Quill legitimized palliative sedation as a recognized medical practice.

Washington v. Glucksberg

In 1997, Washington v. Glucksberg emphasized that it was up to states to legalize aid in dying.

Gonzales v. Oregon

C&C 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.

Baxter v. Montana

Baxter v. Montana authorized medical aid in dying in Montana.

See also


  1. Ziegler, Stephen J; Bosshard, Georg (10 February 2007). "Role of non-governmental organisations in physician assisted suicide". British Medical Journal. 334 (7588): 295. doi:10.1136/
  2. 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 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  3. "End of Life Planning and Paliative Care - Compassion & Choices".
  4. James, Susan Donaldson (February 13, 2014). "Philly Nurse Exonerated in Assisted Death of Her Terminally Ill Father". ABC News. Retrieved May 12, 2016.


  • Colt, George Howe (1991). The Enigma of Suicide. New York: Summit Books. ISBN 0671509969. 
  • Côté, Richard N (2008). In search of gentle death : the fight for your right to die with dignity. Mt. Pleasant, S.C.: Corinthian Books. ISBN 978-1-929175-36-9. 
  • Cox, Donald W. (April 1, 1993). Hemlock’s Cup: The Struggle for Death With Dignity (First ed.). Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-0879758080. 
  • Dowbiggin, Ian (2003). A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in America. Oxford England; New York, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198035152. 
  • Filene, Peter G. (1998). In The Arms of Others: A Cultural History of the Right-to-Die in America. Chicago, Illinois: Ivan R. Dee. p. 196. ISBN 1-56663-188-2. 
  • Glick, Henry R. (1992). The Right to Die: Policy Innovation and Its Consequences. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-07638-X. 
  • Hillyard, Daniel; Dombrink, John (2001). Dying Right: The Death With Dignity Movement. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415927987. 
  • Farewell to Hemlock: Killed by its name, an essay by Derek Humphry 21 February 2005
  • Humphry, Derek (2008). Good Life, Good Death - Memoir of a writer who became a euthanasia advocate. Junction City, Oregon: Norris Lane Press. ISBN 9780976828334. 
  • Putnam, Constance E. (2002). Hospice or Hemlock? Searching for Heroic Compassion. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. ISBN 0897899210. 
  • Wanzer, Sidney, MD; Glenmullen, Joseph, MD (2007). To Die Well. Your Right to Comfort, Calm and Choices in the Last Days of Your Life. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Lifelong Books/Da Capo Press, Merloyd Lawrence. ISBN 0-7382-1083-8. 
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