July Note From the President and CEO
Amid ongoing upheaval, Compassion & Choices is doubling down on practical, people-focused strategies to foster equity and build diversity in the patient-directed care movement.
Jul 18, 2022
Staying focused on hope can feel daunting, or even naive at times – especially in the face of this summer’s repeated acts of mass violence and racial injustice. But our work to build a society founded on compassionate care and individual choice at the end of life remains just as important as ever. Amid ongoing upheaval, Compassion & Choices is doubling down on practical, people-focused strategies to foster equity and build diversity in the patient-directed care movement.
During the month of June, we commemorated the LGBTQ+ community, which has a long and important history of support of end-of-life autonomy, by celebrating Pride Month. Gay men and their loved ones were among the early pioneers of the end-of-life agency movement. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, many watched loved ones, friends and colleagues being ravaged by a disease we eventually came to learn was HIV/AIDS.
Because, at the time, HIV/AIDS affected mostly gay men, it was callously ignored by many who were in a position to help. The experience of watching horrific deaths led many LGBTQ+ people to become early advocates for aid-in-dying laws and the beginnings of our current end-of-life consultation program. Of course, they wanted a cure and a treatment for AIDS first and foremost. However, there was a recognition and awareness that we must have laws in place that would allow a more compassionate end for those who were going to die.
It took years of persistent and loud advocacy to make any headway. Today, as a result of leadership within the LGBTQ+ communities, we have effective treatments for HIV, and we have medical aid-in-dying laws in 10 states.
Despite this progress, members of the LGBTQ+ population continue to experience worse health outcomes than their heterosexual counterparts. In June, coinciding with Pride Month, Compassion & Choices announced the formation of an LGBTQ+ Leadership Council. This new group will explore innovative ways to raise awareness and take action to address barriers to accessing equitable end-of-life healthcare that the LGBTQ+ community faces. In this edition, we feature one of our LGBTQ+ Leadership Council members, Allyne Hammer, and discuss our collaboration with SAGE on Pride.
The LGBTQ+ team is just one of a growing cadre of affinity groups, all modeled on our successful work establishing and growing the African American and Latino Leadership Councils and the recently launched Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Leadership Council.
We are grateful to our leadership council members and partner organizations in spearheading this work, and will continue to lift their voices and priorities in the days, months and years ahead.
P.S. I am also delighted to report that on July 1 Compassion & Choices welcomed three new, very talented and skilled board members. Check out the newsletter for more about them!