A Powerful Day of the Dead Event and New Frontiers in Education Efforts
Healthcare disparities among communities of color are a motivating factor for Compassion & Choices’ increased outreach to diverse groups.
by Alyson Lynch
November 22, 2019
Too many patients approaching life’s end are not equipped or encouraged to claim their voice. This disparity is especially true in the African American and Latino communities, whose members are less likely than their white counterparts to complete advance directives, enroll in hospice care, receive adequate pain management or access medical aid in dying. To counter this reality, with the leadership of our African American and Latino Leadership councils, Compassion & Choices has launched a nationwide public education effort designed to educate Latinos and African Americans about available end-of-life options.
In Washington, D.C., our staff attended two large conferences related to end-of-life care: Iona Senior Services, End of Life Expo: Planning A Good Death and the 4th Annual Caregiver Conference, hosted by TERRIFIC Inc. We reached hundreds of conference-goers with our materials and met potential advocates and volunteers. In Charlotte, North Carolina, we attended the Healthy Churches 2020 conference where we were able to extend our message of end-of-life planning and education and meet faith leaders along the way. In addition, Compassion & Choices was also a speaker and sponsor for the November annual gathering of Black Nonbelievers known as SeaCon.
Also this month, Compassion & Choices held the first Spanish-language webinar for volunteers, supporters and patient advocates. We shared critical resources in Spanish to a receptive audience. We also partnered with a cancer support group in California to give Spanish-speaking patients and families information about their end-of-life options and specifically California’s medical aid-in-dying law. For many in the audience, this was their first time hearing about the law. “It’s heartbreaking that dying people are still unaware of their options at the end of life,” said Patricia A. Gonzalez-Portillo, Latino communications & constituency director. “This is why our work is so important in underserved communities.” To view our Spanish resources, visit our website at CompassionAndChoices.org/end-of-life-planning/informacion.
On November 1, Compassion & Choices honored the memory of deceased advocates on the fifth anniversary of Brittany Maynard’s passing by bringing together storytellers, their families and other advocates and supporters in San Diego, California at a Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) event. The Day of the Dead is a celebration that originated in Mexico and focuses on remembering the lives of loved ones who have died.
Advocates from different cultures and faiths kicked off the celebration with a procession at First Unitarian Universalist Church led by a moment of prayer. Inside the chapel we created a colorful altar with photos and the favorite foods of those being remembered. A moment of silence followed a lighting of candles. We honored our friends and advocates, living and dead, by sharing their stories with each other and the public.
Dan Diaz, husband of the late Brittany Maynard, who catapulted the end-of-life options movement forward by sharing her experience moving from California to Oregon to access medical aid in dying, spoke powerfully of Brittany’s legacy. Amanda Vilegas also spoke about her late husband, Chris, who suffered horribly before his death in 2019 despite the California End of Life Option Act being authorized. She wrote in an op-ed for the San Bernardino Sun, “Chris should not have suffered that way and neither should anyone else.” Hanna Olivas, a 45-year-old mother of four children, spoke about living with a rare form of incurable blood cancer, multiple myeloma, since August 2017. Recently, doctors told Hanna she has only months to one year to live. Her story was featured in People Magazine. The speakers were showcased in Spanish and English language media, including Los Angeles Times en Español, the San Bernardino Sun and local TV stations.