An Iowa woman is crying foul after she says she discovered that the leading assisted suicide advocacy organization, Compassion and Choices (C&C), “stole” the names – including her own – of thousands of people who signed a generic “sympathy card” addressed to Brittany Maynard, and then added them to a petition supporting the legalization of assisted suicide: all without their knowledge or consent.
Katie Buck says she has gathered damning video and audio evidence that shows that C&C misled people into signing the card, the language of which was unobjectionable to people on either side of the assisted suicide debate, and then planned to use the personal information they gathered to create the impression of widespread public support for assisted suicide.
She also says that she wasn’t the only one who was “duped,” but has heard from friends opposed to assisted suicide who also told her they signed the sympathy card, not realizing that their information would be used to support assisted suicide by C&C.
While a spokesman for C&C denied Buck’s allegations in an interview with LifeSiteNews, saying that signatories were not added to any petition, multiple phone calls with C&C staff members that Buck secretly recorded and provided to LSN appear to tell a very different story.
Card says: Let Brittany ‘know how much you care’
Buck told LSN that her run-in with C&C began earlier this fall when she first heard about Brittany Maynard. At the time Maynard, who was suffering from brain cancer, had exploded onto the international stage after she announced her decision to take her own life under Oregon’s assisted suicide law. The announcement was made in a video produced by C&C.
Like many people around the world, Buck was moved with compassion for the terminally ill young woman. After following a link on a news article to what she thought was Brittany Maynard’s blog, she was greeted with a popup that urged visitors to sign a “sympathy card” to Brittany.
The full text of the card read: “Let’s get 1 million people to sign Brittany’s card. Add your name and wish her well. Let her know how much you care. Sign the card and let Brittany know you support her bravery in this very tough time.”
Though Buck is a pro-life activist who opposes assisted suicide, she says the language was unobjectionable to her and she didn’t hesitate to sign the card. In a video walking viewers through the process of signing the card, Buck observes that the card also didn’t include any disclaimer information, either indicating who was behind the card, or that the names would be used for any other purpose than sending a personal message to Brittany.
In fact, it wasn’t until Buck subsequently received an unsolicited email from C&C about Brittany that she realized anything might be awry. Realizing that the sympathy card must have been a C&C project, she became suspicious about what other uses her information might have been put to, and decided to do some undercover sleuthing.
She says that what she discovered shocked her.
C&C staff confirm: Sympathy card signers automatically added to petition
In multiple phone calls, which Buck secretly recorded, two different staff members with C&C repeatedly and explicitly confirmed that everyone who signed the Brittany Maynard sympathy card was not only signed up for C&C’s email updates, but would also automatically be added to C&C’s petition for their home state calling for the legalization of assisted suicide.
When Buck asked specifically for what the text of the petition was, one staff member explained that the text is “pretty straight forward,” and read her as an example the text of C&C’s Colorado petition.
In order to build a watertight case, Buck also asked her husband and a friend to both sign the sympathy card. Each time, she called C&C, and confirmed that the names had been added to the sympathy card, and that they did not need to do anything different to also be added to the local state petition.
“No. Nothing different,” responded one staff member at C&C’s Colorado headquarters. “We don’t have a separation for lists, for petitions as opposed to political mailings, as opposed to general mailings from Compassion and Choices. There’s no separation.”
After gathering her evidence, Buck came clean during a phone conversation with Roland Halpern, C&C’s Regional Campaign & Outreach Manager, explaining that she was actually opposed to assisted suicide, and had been investigating how her name had been used.
“You understand my concern that I’m now on a pro-physician assisted suicide petition, saying I’m in favor of assisted suicide, from signing a sympathy card?” she asked Halbern. “Are you following me here about why I’m disappointed with that?”
“Yeah, I understand what you’re saying,” Halpern responded, before attempting to assuage Buck’s concerns by explaining that the C&C petition wasn’t an official petition to put a measure on the ballot, but rather an informal show of popular support. He also added that C&C believed that “by and large the majority of the people” who went to Brittany’s site would be supportive of her decision.
“That’s a very large assumption,” Buck responded. “I feel like this could have happened to a lot of people. And you couldn’t legitimately know one way or another if someone was in favor of assisted physician suicide, or against.”
'Completely ridiculous': C&C spokesman denies allegations
However, when subsequently contacted by LifeSiteNews, C&C spokesman Sean Crowley had a very different story. While he defended the use of the sympathy card to gather emails for the group’s email list, he denied that any of the names were ever added to a petition.
“There is no petition,” Sean Crowley told LSN. He accused Buck of exploiting Brittany Maynard’s story and spearheading a “publicity campaign.”
“Those names don’t go to any lawmaker,” he said. “I don’t know what else to tell you other than that it’s a cheap publicity stunt, and that she may have broken the law because most states do not allow you to record conversations without telling the other party.”
He also said that “it defies logic” that anyone could have visited Brittany’s website – theBrittanyFund.org – and not realized that they were visiting a website that supported assisted suicide.
“That’s completely ridiculous. It stretches imagination beyond its bounds to think that someone that would not understand that this website is dedicated to fulfilling her mission, when she’s expressly said that,” said Crowley.
While Crowley said he wasn’t sure which staff members Buck spoke to, he said they are “administrative staff” who weren’t in a position to know how the names gathered on the sympathy card would be used.
For her part, Buck is standing by her story. She says she is shocked by C&C’s denials, given the quantity of evidence that she has compiled.
“I can’t believe that they were gutsy enough to lie about it,” she told LifeSiteNews. “But I guess that maybe they didn’t realize that I had been recording the phone conversations.”
“How many people signed this card not knowing they were being put on a petition?” Buck asked. “It's completely invalid, because the information was obtained under false pretenses.”
“What this is really about,” she said, is that C&C “exploited the sympathy of people all over America for political gain. That’s what happened. Regardless of where people stand on this issue, what they did was completely crooked. And it was dishonest politics.”
“I was duped by Compassion and Choices,” Bucks said. “If you were duped, too, call them and say you want off of their petition.”
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