November Note From the President and CEO: Creating Change in End-of-Life Care

We are doubling down our efforts to educate all communities so they are empowered to advocate for their desired end-of-life experience.  

The core tenet of Compassion & Choices’ work is that we all — no matter who we are, where we live or how much money we make — have access to the full range of end-of-life care options so that we can chart our own end-of-life journey. 

We have quite a long way to go, but we are seeing progress; for example, the recent acceptance across the country of telehealth as a care delivery method for end-of-life care, which reduced barriers to access for many people with limited incomes, those who live in rural areas, and other traditionally underserved communities.

This progress gives me hope that we can make meaningful headway in addressing gaps in education and access to end-of-life care services. We recognize this will require the collective voices and work of many people, organizations, policymakers, health systems and others before we see significant progress, but we are committed to continue that work. 

With that in mind, Compassion & Choices convened its first annual summit in November, 2021: Addressing Inequities in End of Life Planning and Care: Advancing Equity at Life’s End. The summit brought together 14 medical, policy and social service experts from across the country (along with members of Compassion & Choices staff) to review the latest research on disparities in end-of-life care and discuss current challenges and potential solutions. In addition to establishing some shared conclusions and national policy recommendations, this diverse cross-section of expert panelists was the first step in the formation of a nascent coalition of Compassion & Choices and several other organizations engaged in the work of our movement.

Indeed, in recent weeks we have seen important milestones and recognition come from our work to reach out and collaborate with other organizations, such as the NAACP, SAGE and the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative (NOBEL) Women.

NAACP Advocates for End-of-Life Planning

I’m pleased to announce that the NAACP has just passed a new resolution advocating for family education on all aspects of end-of-life planning. The resolution was amended and ratified by the NAACP national board of directors on October 15, 2021, and notes that:  

The NAACP advocates that families educate themselves on all aspects of end-of-life planning including advance healthcare directives, healthcare proxies, organ donation, wills, trusts, powers of attorney and end-of-life options such as hospice, palliative care and achieving a physician-assisted peaceful transition.”

This formal declaration by the NAACP represents a significant step for the end-of-life care movement and more specifically, for Black Americans who have historically been underserved and treated unequally by the medical and healthcare system. NAACP members including civil rights leaders, social workers, labor reformers, philanthropists, educators, clergy and journalists joined together to pass this powerful resolution. This has been years in the making and came as a result of continued and persistent collaboration between the NAACP and Compassion & Choices.   

NOBEL Women Recognizes Compassion & Choices

I am delighted to share that earlier this month, we received unexpected and remarkable recognition for this work — NOBEL Women presented us with their 2021 Corporate Champion Award for the work that we did to educate Black Americans about the importance of end-of-life planning during the pandemic. 

In my mind, THEY, not us, are the ones who should be getting an award. They began working with us long before many others recognized the importance of this issue including passing a resolution titled NOBEL Women Resolution to Educate, Empower and Advocate around End-of-Life Care in 2019, which served as an important building block for our shared commitment to this work. We are humbled by this recognition and stand with them as we chart a path forward to continue this important work. 

There is so much work to be done to address inequities in end-of-life care — from education and outreach to policy and legislation. The Summit was an important step toward informing a new Compassion & Choices federal policy agenda. Couple that with our ongoing work to educate communities about end-of-life care and advance care planning, and to empower people so they know they have a voice and choice, and we are on our way.

Your support and generosity is what keeps me optimistic; we are seeing progress in advancing end-of-life autonomy for all communities. I hope this work and our progress excites you as much as it does me!  



Kim Callinan