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Compassion & Choices Wins Award for Video of Filmmaker Barbara Hammer

Renowned journalist Katie Couric presents the award and commends bringing medical aid in dying “out of the shadows.”

Longtime TV journalist Katie Couric was the surprise presenter to Compassion & Choices of its 2020 Sharecare Award in the Caregiver/End-of-Life category for a video we produced of celebrated LGBTQ filmmaker Barbara Hammer urging New York lawmakers to pass the state’s End of Life Option Act

Established by digital health company Sharecare, in association with The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Sharecare Awards recognize excellence for productions and programming in health and well-being.

Compassion & Choices’ award-winning video features the groundbreaking filmmaker Hammer urging New York lawmakers to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act. “My cancer is incurable … I will reach a very debilitated state,”she says in the video, in which she notes that she suffered through more than 100 chemo treatments for ovarian cancer over 12 years before entering hospice in late 2018. “I would so much like to be able to manage my own death by choosing the time and the person I’d like to have with me so that I can die in comfort and with compassion and not in pain and morphine-drugged.” Hammer died on March 16, 2019, at age 79 in her Manhattan home without access to this gently dying option. In February, Oscars in Memoriam honored her for her legacy as an experimental filmmaker.

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Sharecare produced prerecorded award presentations for each category to be broadcast over a six-week period on its Facebook and Twitter pages. Senior New York campaign director Corinne Carey recorded a 20-second acceptance speech on Sept. 15, but the producer did not reveal who would present the award for the Caregiver/End-of-Life category before it aired on Oct. 15.

“Congratulations, Compassion & Choices! Medical aid in dying is still considered a taboo topic by many,” said Couric, whose late husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer in 1998. “Barbara Hammer is bringing it out of the shadows. This project did a remarkable job presenting a very difficult topic, so well done, and congratulations again.”

“I was stunned when I saw Katie Couric congratulate us before by my acceptance speech,’ said Carey. “I never won an award for shooting a video before, and for a female broadcasting legend like Katie Couric to offer congratulations just made it that much sweeter. My next project is to recruit Katie Couric to join our grassroots campaign to pass New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act.”

“Barbara was a pioneering LGTBQ filmmaker, and Katie Couric is a pioneering female journalist, so I know Barbara would be honored by Katie recognizing her storytelling ability and passionate advocacy for medical aid in dying,” said Hammer’s end-of-life caregiver and partner of 31 years, Florrie Burke, who is carrying on Barbara’s work in partnership with Compassion & Choices. “Barbara was the love of my life. I owe it to her and people dying from cancer, COVID-19, and other diseases to continue her advocacy, so they have the option to die gently.”

Watch the entire award-winning video of Barbara Hammer urging New York lawmakers to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act.

See the Sharecare Award presentation to Compassion & Choices, featuring a clip of Barbara Hammer’s video, Katie Couric’s congratulatory speech and Corinne Carey’s acceptance speech, on Facebook or Twitter.

Watch the Compassion & Choices webinar featuring Florrie Burke and Corinne Carey screening Barbara Hammer’s sold-out lecture at the Whitney Museum of American Art.