Illinois Compassionate Quarterly – Spring 2021
Apr 16, 2021 Illinois
Happy National Healthcare Decisions Day!
Today, April 16, we recognize National Healthcare Decisions Day. In our second year of a global pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to command more attention on the importance of advance care planning and the movement to expand and protect end-of-life options for everyone.
Make sure the people you care about have everything they need to make their wishes known. Share our Illinois resource page on Facebook, where folks can find everything they need to make these conversations as easy as possible.
National Healthcare Decisions Day was founded on the principle that a person deserves to have their wishes honored when it comes to their own treatment. For some, advance care planning stirs up fear and anxiety about death. No one said it better than the late, great Fred Rogers:
“Anything that is human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know we are not alone.”
As we honor that sentiment today, there’s no better time to make sure your loved ones are fully informed about their decisions. Thank you for helping to spread the word on this momentous day!
The nine Illinois volunteer Action Teams are continuing to engage their communities through local programs and services.
- Recently, the Chicago Action Team organized two Facebook Live events, hosted by Howard Brown Health in both English and Spanish. The presentations—by Compassion & Choices National Latino Outreach Manager Maria Otero and Midwest Regional Campaign and Outreach Manager Amy Sherman—were watched by about 750 people. Howard Brown Health is a federally qualified health center focused on eliminating healthcare disparities experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
- McLean County team members continue to respond to community needs by providing advance planning support at the local senior center.
- The Oak Park Action Team presented a program, “Finishing Strong: Ensuring Your Final Wishes are Honored” for The Transition Network.
- The Evanston Action Team is recognizing National Healthcare Decisions Day through their Mayor’s proclamation announced at a recent City Council meeting about the importance of advance planning.
- Other action teams are bringing awareness to National Healthcare Decisions Day by writing letters to the editor of their local papers. To date letters have been published in the Chicago Tribune, the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, and The News-Gazette (Champaign/Urbana).
If you would like to join the movement, we welcome you to join a local Action Team or start a new one! Please contact Amy Sherman for more information.
This legislative session has been quite busy and exciting for the movement. On April 8, New Mexico became the 11th U.S. jurisdiction and tenth state to authorize medical aid in dying after passing the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act (HB 47). In addition, legislators in Montana prevented the advancement of a bill which would have made participation in medical aid in dying by physicians a crime. Fifteen states have introduced legislation in 2021 to authorize medical aid in dying.
Spotlight: Sarah and Amanda Breeden
Sarah Breeden and Amanda Breeden are a mother-daughter team. Amanda is a recent college graduate with an interest in LGBTQIA+ issues and social work. Sarah currently volunteers for numerous societal causes. Amanda recently produced a short documentary about her grandfather, Grant McGuire, regarding his life and his death using Oregon’s medical aid-in-dying law.
1) In a few words, can you describe your father/grandfather?
(Amanda) My Grandpa McGuire was incredibly caring, intelligent, worldly, humble, empathetic, creative, hilarious … I could go on and on! He loved spending time outdoors. He was ‘man enough to be a Girl Scout.’ He was constantly volunteering, reading, and crafting. He was a phenomenal human being and was someone I always looked up to.
2) How did Grant learn about medical aid in dying? Did his treating physician mention it as an option?
(Sarah) My dad was aware of medical aid in dying long before his diagnosis. He retired from Indiana and moved to Oregon in 2003 in part because of the state’s medical aid-in-dying law. He had lived in Oregon before for his career and also had family there. I am not sure whether his treating physician mentioned medical aid in dying prior to my dad mentioning it, but his physician was supportive.
3) How did other family members react to your father/grandfather accessing medical aid in dying at the end of his life?
(Amanda) We knew long before his diagnosis that medical aid in dying was important to him. I first remember learning about the concept and its importance when I was maybe ten or eleven years old. When it became a reality for our family, everyone supported his decision; there was no pushback.
4) Have you ever shown the video as part of your own advocacy efforts?
(Sarah) I have shown Amanda’s video to our state legislators in their local district offices. We live in a fairly conservative district. In each case, while in their presence, I played the video. They were ‘sorry for our loss’ and sat through the video respectfully, but both suggested that they thought the legislation could be ‘abused.’
I am interested in sharing our story with other members of the Illinois General Assembly. I believe our story, combined with the stories of so many others, will compel lawmakers to listen and accept the relief afforded by this legislation.
5) What was your primary reason for making this film about your grandfather’s end-of-life journey?
(Amanda) I have always been passionate about sharing my grandpa’s story. I love talking about him! He touched so many lives and he deserved so much more time. The video is a celebration of my grandfather’s life, a pivotal part of my grieving/healing process, and a call to action: every state must legalize medical aid in dying. The breadth of our end-of-life options should not be limited by ZIP Codes.
Amanda Breeden and Grant McGuire in “Grant McGuire’s Story,” available to stream now on YouTube.
Check out the following links for information on upcoming and past events:
Call for Storytellers
One of the best ways to build this movement is to share our stories. Rae Spooner’s story was recently featured in a virtual screening of the documentary, “R.S.” (available to stream on Amazon Prime) hosted by the Champaign-Urbana Action Team.
If you would like to read others’ stories or share the struggles of navigating end-of-life options of your own or those of a loved one, click here.
“Finish Strong” Challenge
Have you reviewed your Advance Directives recently? Is your Medical Power of Attorney aware of your wishes? Take the time to ensure that your papers are in order and that you have told others your wishes!
Before You Go…
If you would like to become more involved with Compassion & Choices in Illinois, please email Amy Sherman at [email protected]
If you have suggestions for future editions of this newsletter, please email Patrick Donges at [email protected]
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