Thank You, Dr. Grube

Compassion & Choices National Medical Director Dr. David Grube retires this year, leaving an immeasurable legacy of helping improve the end-of-life experience.
January 20, 2022

David Grube didn’t know what to think about medical aid in dying when it first passed in Oregon in 1994. “But a very dear patient of mine asked me in 1999 if I would help him,” Grube, who at the time had already been a family physician for over two decades, recalls. “This guy was having terrible symptoms of his disease, so I talked with the medical director of a local hospice, and he mentored me through. That was the first patient I wrote a prescription for.”

The years following, Grube’s connection to Compassion & Choices evolved from consulting the organization for guidance, to serving as a volunteer and finally becoming a national medical director in 2015. In that time, Grube has witnessed — and helped further — great progress in public understanding and sentiment around medical aid in dying. “I think attitudes have changed a lot. I’ve seen incredible growth. It used to be that all hospice organizations were opposed. Now most non-Catholic hospices in authorized states are pretty neutral and engaged, and that’s a huge change we’ve seen just in maybe the last 10 years,” he says. “But there is still a long way to go, because many people don’t really understand it yet. The thing is, very few physicians do end-of-life care, not a dermatologist or ophthalmologist or gastroenterologist. Family doctors do end-of-life care; intensivists, oncologists and geriatricians also deal with care at the end of life. So even a lot of the medical establishment who are opposed to medical aid in dying don’t know what it is.”

“David was one of the early advocates for medical aid in dying within the medical community,” said Compassion & Choices President and CEO Kim Callinan. “He got involved in something he truly believed in at a time when it wasn’t fashionable to do so. Just one state, Oregon, had authorized medical aid in dying, and many people, patients and providers alike, didn’t understand it and were afraid of it. David had the courage to speak up and often about the importance of this new medical practice at a time when he could well have been ostracized by the medical community. He then joined Compassion & Choices, and we benefited each and every day from his knowledge, his expertise and above all else his heart. I’m so grateful for David — his legacy, wisdom and compassion have left an indelible mark on this movement.” 

Grube, who also led our Doc2Doc program, speaking to nearly a thousand doctors over the years who needed information or just wanted to talk, feels gratified by work that is immersed in compassion: “There just can’t be enough kindness. In our world today, people need to be more kind — especially at the end of life. That’s why I’ve enjoyed the work I’ve done for Compassion & Choices; the people who work in this arena really do care about that.”  

At Compassion & Choices, we are tremendously grateful for the gift of working with Dr. Grube, and as he retires, his absence will be felt by all of us.

Kindness, and even his favored concept of empathic curiosity, will carry on in Grube’s retirement. Passionate about music, he and his wife joined a threshold choir four years ago, singing at the bedsides of the dying, and he plans to devote more time to expanding threshold choirs internationally. “Another thing I think I’m going to do is volunteer for Dial-A-Bus,” he says. “I’ve always liked to talk to people — that’s why I went into family medicine — and I’ve never had a traffic ticket, so I think I’ll drive a bus … singing!” 

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