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A near-death experience compels the University of New Orleans professor to shift his career focus and steers him toward the end-of-life choice movement.

Volunteer Don Zimmerman spent the first 20 years of his career as a policy researcher in D.C. working with Congress and executive agencies on a wide variety of national health policy issues. He then turned to full-time academic work at the University of Maryland University College as professor and director of their Graduate Healthcare Administration Program. Four years ago, however, Don was hospitalized with a massive medical event — a thoracic aneurysm and ensuing septic shock — that not only threatened but changed his life.

“After being in the ICU for 43 straight days, close to dying, I went through something called ‘ICU delirium,’ which it turns out affects two- to three-million people a year,” Don explains. “The way I describe it is as your worst nightmare that then gets worse, and then doesn’t end. It’s a horrible experience.”