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Guest Editorial: Death With Dignity


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By Jo Zucker

My children hardly remembered when their grandmother had hair. Her body was ravaged by five years of chemotherapy, and her spirit waned with each round of treatments. Her doctor finally uttered the words we had long dreaded: “There’s nothing more we can do.” So she contacted Compassion & Choices.

My mother did not want to die in the manner of many ovarian cancer victims, suffering from complications of bowel obstruction. She dreaded the indignities of an invalid: bedpans and dependence, and drugs that rendered her sharp mind dull. She waited until her quality of life had so far diminished that she was merely surviving day to day, unable to appreciate anything that once gave her life meaning. And then she, surrounded by me, my sister and her two closest friends, followed her end-of-life choice and gently drifted into sleep, then death. It was a beautiful passing.

Oregonians living west of the Cascades have an arm of the organization Compassion & Choices, Compassion & Choices Oregon, to guide them through Oregon’s Death With Dignity law, which was established in 1997. In the words of former Governor Barbara Roberts, “The fact that Oregon’s Death With Dignity law, the first in the country, has worked so beautifully is because Compassion & Choices has been there to make sure it did. We’ve done it right, and this organization has made it happen.”

Compassion & Choices Oregon (CCO), which has no network east of the Cascades, is launching its Central Oregon program on September 9. It will provide Central Oregonians and their families seeking end-of-life care and choice with information and support. Clients may complete an advance directive or similar document spelling out final wishes. They are encouraged to contact hospice, and also learn about end-of-life options like voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED), refusing unwanted medical treatment, discontinuing life-sustaining therapies under the care of a physician, and aid in dying.

Many patients learn about their right to “die with dignity” when it is too late to find a doctor who is able to help, which is why CCO is reaching out to those in the Central Oregon healthcare system (physicians, hospice workers and retirement community representatives), hoping that providers will convey information about end-of-life choice to their patients.

The September 9 event will introduce Compassion & Choices to Central Oregonians, raising funds to support outreach efforts east of the Cascades. Keynote speakers are Dr. David Grube, Compassion & Choices medical director, and Kat West, director of Compassion & Choices Oregon. Among many other accomplishments, Dr. Grube served as president of the Oregon Medical Board, and was named Oregon Family Physician of the Year and Oregon Medical Association’s Doctor Citizen of the Year. Kat West is CCO’s dynamic new state director, an attorney with a diverse background working for organizations at the national, regional and local levels.

The public is invited to attend the event, which will be held at Circle of Friends Art & Academy in Tumalo. For more information about the event visit: For information about end-of-life care and choices visit

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