Volunteer Spotlight: Alan Eason

July 3, 2014

“I never had much of an occasion to think about end-of-life issues or even healthcare issues,” says Maryland volunteer Alan Eason, of his 30-year tenure with the Maryland Attorney General’s office. That changed after retirement, however, when he started auditing healthcare law courses at his alma mater, the University of Maryland School of Law. “One of the courses was taught by a former colleague who had actually written Maryland’s advance directive law,” Alan noted. Another concerned law and policy in end-of-life care, which furthered his interest in the end-of-life choice movement.

At the same time, an acquaintance who attended Compassion & Choices meetings in Baltimore invited him to join. He started attending those meetings as well as meetings of the Maryland Advisory Council on Quality Care in the End of Life, a diverse group that examines and makes recommendations around palliative and hospice care. Then watching his parents’ difficult deaths – his mother in 2010 and his father in 2011 – elevated the importance of this issue for him: “My dad, who was very, very intelligent, developed Alzheimer’s, and my mother was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, a Parkinson’s type of disease that essentially locks you in your body.  So neither of them had terminal cancer with physical pain kinds of issues, but both suffered horribly. They no longer found the value in life that they wanted.”

Alan became more and more involved with the grassroots effort in Maryland, including conducting legislative research at the Maryland House of Delegates. “Even though I worked with that stuff for 30 years, I never had to actually do it. We had law clerks for that! But I really liked it. It was meaningful to me.”

Alan has also been talking to people about Compassion & Choices, writing letters to local newspapers and collecting names of others he thinks might want to become active in the movement. The Baltimore Sun published his letter during the gubernatorial primary when death with dignity emerged as an issue. “Hopefully I can contribute to something I feel is extraordinarily important,” he says. “I believe strongly in autonomy; that’s what it’s about for me. If a friend, family member or anyone chooses to have every medical intervention, even though they have terminal, painful illness, that’s fine. As long as that is a choice they make, I think our society should support that choice and the entire continuum all the way to death with dignity. To me, that’s central here. The laws in our society should reflect a range of possibilities for all of us.”

Compassion & Choices
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Patricia A. González-Portillo
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(323) 819 0310

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