Note From the CEO
Opening Hearts and Minds to Make Room for Change
by Kim Callinan
February 21, 2020
The great historian Carter G. Woodson believed understanding the past opens doors to the future. He created what is now Black History Month in 1926 to highlight the contributions his community was making to this country’s development and success. During a time when they were not even seen as human, acknowledging African Americans’ impact had a ripple effect. Not only did it help validate the community, it also made others do the same. Woodson believed that black history was a catalyst for transformation and change.
Today, celebrations of black history, such as the one featured in this issue, honor important historical milestones and the rich cultures and achievements of African Americans. At the same time, they offer us opportunities to open our hearts to new insights and ideas and to make room for the possibility of change.
So much of what we do at Compassion & Choices is about bringing transformative change, about moving our society from a system where the medical community is the driver to one that allows us, the patient, to make decisions about the care we want during our last days of life, and that the full range of end-of-life care options should include medical aid in dying.
In this issue, we start with a feature about our recent efforts to support passage of a medical aid in dying law in Maryland, my home state. More than 185 volunteers took to the offices of the House and Senate to share their personal stories, imploring the lawmakers to listen with their hearts and open their minds to the possibilities of what medical aid in dying will bring to Marylanders. While passage of the bill is our immediate goal, we know that medical aid in dying is a natural and important catalyst for deeper discussions about how we view end-of-life care and how we want to change our current system of care.
Trisha White, our storyteller spotlight in this issue, reminds us of this. She watched the tragic suffering her father endured during his last days, and is ever so thankful she lives in a jurisdiction that gives her the option to choose medical aid in dying if she were to need it. But, she understands that even in states where medical aid in dying is authorized, the practice is often fraught with trepidation from the medical community who is slow to embrace the change.
Trisha’s story, and the many other stories we hear far too often fortify me as I work with you to advocate for change in how we view end-of-life care and defend your right to decide what options are best for you and your loved ones.
As you chart your personal journey forward, we highlight three books that will educate, guide, and inspire as you consider your end-of-life care preferences. Finish Strong: Putting YOUR Priorities First at Life’s End, will soon be available as an audiobook! Author Barbara Coombs Lee, Compassion & Choices president emerita and senior adviser, brought her compassion and grace to audio to share important stories and learnings with you. Friend of the movement Dr. Lewis Cohen, palliative medicine researcher and psychiatrist, also released a new book, A Dignified Ending: Taking Control Over How We Die, a candid look at the need for true end-of-life autonomy. And, earlier this month, radio host Diane Rehm launched her latest book, When My Time Comes: Conversations About Whether Those Who Are Dying Should Have the Right to Determine When Life Should End, which gives voice to advocates and opponents alike personally linked to the realities of medical aid in dying. Watch for her documentary with the same name, scheduled to be released in the Spring of 2021.
It is through efforts like yours and our resolute network of supporters and champions that we continue to open peoples’ hearts and minds to our mission to make sure all people can choose the end-of-life care in line with their values.