When I raise the subject among friends about personal choice in dying, there is broad agreement that they would like to have control of their death. Since my training as a Compassion & Choices volunteer I have had excellent support from the professional team in being informed before visiting a client and throughout the process of supporting the client. I am pleased that Washington State has followed the Oregon model and am hopeful that my state, Florida will begin to see the light.
I was so pleased to be introduced to this organization who are effectively and efficiently dealing with an issue so dear to my heart. Contributing to this organisation, with both time and money, is one of the most rewarding things in my life. Compassion & Choices are the one organisation that advocates for individual autonomy and dignity through choices at the end of life AND for changes to the law across the country to increase the information and choices available to patients. My grandmother was able to make her own decisions regarding her death from cancer, and she died on her own terms at home with her family around her - it was truly a good death and one I wish everyone could emulate. C&C works to empower patients so that the medical system is more helpful and responsive to the dying. When someone is terminally ill it is an immense comfort to them (and their loved ones) to know that they can make the important decisions about the end of their life.
Thirty five years ago, when my parents were in their 60s, they wrote their first advanced directives. Every time we visited, they spoke passionately about their wishes not to be kept alive after quality of life was gone, nor to have money spent that could be used to help people in need. Now I’m in my 60s and I can see that many people still don’t have the opportunity to die peacefully and in the manner of their choosing. I’m grateful for Compassion & Choices’ commitment to keep this conversation alive until every state provides for end-of-life dignity.
Finding Compassion & Choices when my mother was diagnosed with late stage Ovarian Cancer was literally a life saver. Both my parents loved life, lived it fully, and always made clear that when they could no longer do so,they wanted to die with dignity. The counseling services and support we received were phenomenal. Once my mother knew that her end-of-life decisions could be honored, she lived the last months of her life with the same spirit and zest that characterized her. After she died, there was no question in my mind that I would work with Compassion and Choices to ensure that we can all have that same freedom of mind and heart at the end of life.
Friends sometimes ask me how I can work with clients who are dying. Isn't it difficult? Depressing? Here's my answer: I've been a volunteer with Compassion and Choices for more than four years and find it enriching, important work. Supporting patients and their families at a critical time is rewarding. One of my clients, S., diagnosed with terminal cancer ,wrote the following after finding Compassion and Choices: "I now have the knowledge that I don't have to suffer, and that information is enough to give me a new life. I simply needed to know that I could have control over my life." He died peacefully 20 months later. Whether it's assisting someone to complete an Advance Directive, talk to a doctor about end-of-life wishes, find a hospice, or just to be there to help a client make sense of the dying process, I find my work for Compassion and Choices deeply satisfying.
Compassion & Choices is THE national end-of-life choices organization. I have been a donor for many years and continue to be impressed with the creative and excellent work of the organization. C&C uses every tool possible to get its message of choice to the public, government officials and its members. This last year alone they passed a law in California, won a court case in Montana and passed a ballot measure in the state of Washington. On the client side, the care is supportive and responsive. C&C has helped pave the way for people across the country to know and exercise their choices at the end of life.
C&C has had a remarkable track record of success in helping patients, educating legislators, press and the public, and pushing for legislation that will permit Aid-in-Dying. The Washington victory this past November is a wonderful step forward, and supporters should feel very confident their contributions are being very well used.