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Remembering Robert Shoemaker

With sadness and enormous respect, we mark the recent death of Oregon Senator Robert C. Shoemaker, a legislative trailblazer in the laws governing end-of-life decisions and a major force behind Oregon’s leadership among the states.

Former Oregon Senator Robert C. Shoemaker died peacefully September 12 at the age of 89. During his career, he chaired the health committees that shaped the groundbreaking Oregon Health Plan, which provides care to low-income residents, and authored the Health Care Decisions Act, one of the first advance directive laws in the nation. Bob hired Compassion & Choices President Emerita Barbara Coombs Lee to administer the committees he chaired during the 1991 and 1993 sessions. Over five years Senator Shoemaker steered those bills to passage and made his mark on healthcare not only in Oregon but the nation.

“Bob was my mentor and my friend,” Barbara says, “and my next 30 years of advocacy would not have been possible had he not been in my life.”

Bob not only stood up to the Oregon Catholic Conference to pass the still-controversial advance directive bill. He also broke ground by enabling living will instructions to apply in advanced dementia, without terminal illness. Now, 30 years later, most legislatures still have not been able to follow the path he blazed.

The Senator lived a remarkable life — abundant with love and achievement, and always accompanied by joy, music and gratitude. A giant of a man passed this way, and Compassion & Choices is honored to help carry on his legacy.


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