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Story Highlights C&C’s Use of Social Media, Technology to Advance Death with Dignity

By Katie Wingo

Peninsula Press, a project of Stanford Journalism, published a story last week recognizing Compassion & Choices’ smart use of social media and technology to turbo-charge the death-with-dignity movement.

On Oct. 6, 2014, Compassion & Choices launched its partnership with death-with-dignity advocate Brittany Maynard by posting a video of her that catapulted the option of medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults into the forefront of national media attention and legislative initiatives.

“Almost 12 million people saw Brittany Maynard’s final days battling terminal brain cancer in a video requesting the right to die …

“It was not Maynard or her family who widely shared the video that attracted national attention to the issue of aid-in-dying legislation. Maynard reached out to Compassion & Choices, said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for the organization. The nonprofit … promoted Maynard’s video, organized primetime interviews, perpetuated a national conversation and continued to share her story after her death.

“Compassion & Choices and other such organizations have taken advantage of the latest digital technologies to bolster the conversation about the right to die.

“‘It’s clear that social media is the reason this issue has gained so much momentum so quickly because it is now possible for a story like Brittany’s to go global in just a matter of hours,’ Broaddus said.”

After analyzing more than 25,000 tweets from April and May 2015 from nonprofits, journalists and individuals with a large following, the Peninsula Press concluded the tweets from established organizations generated the highest amount of conversation about the option of medical aid in dying.

The global recognition of Brittany’s story garnered the attention of California Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning and Senate Majority Whip Lois Wolk, who subsequently sponsored the End of Life Option Act (SB 128).

“Senators Bill Monning and Lois Wolk, SB 128’s sponsors, approached Compassion & Choices regarding the bill shortly after Maynard’s death in November of last year. The senators officially introduced the bill in January 2015.

“ … it marked the first time that legislators reached out to the nonprofit and not the other way around. Compassion & Choices was not planning to go to the Legislature during 2015, Broaddus said. The nonprofit, however, was ready to seize the opportunity the senators presented them.”

The story notes the national attention on Brittany’s story undoubtedly played a significant role in prompting the California Medical Association (CMA) to drop their long-standing opposition to medical aid in dying, a key moment in the successful campaign to persuade the legislature to pass the bill.

“One of the key shifts in the legislation’s likelihood for success came after the California Medical Association (CMA), a historic opponent to aid-in-dying legislation stated on May 20, that it was neutral on the passage of the legislation.”

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to receive the revised version of End of Life Option (ABX2-15) by the end of this week. Compassion & Choices continues to utilize social media and other technology to educate and connect with supporters, urging them to tell Gov. Brown to sign the bill into law.

You can read the full Peninsula Press report here.