End-of-Life Choice, Death with Dignity, Palliative Care and Counseling

Posts TaggedHeights of Compassion

OFFBEAT: Legendary advice columnist ‘Dear Abby’ speaking at Chicago conference

By Philip Potempa
June 25, 2012

Billed as “the most widely syndicated newspaper columnist in the world,” the Dear Abby daily advice column feature appears in 1,400 newspapers worldwide, boasting a daily readership of more than 110 million people.

She also anchors the advice page in a number of our sister newspapers as part our parent Lee Enterprises media chain, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to The Citizen in Auburn, N.Y.

Written under the Abigail Van Buren pen name by Jeanne Phillips, the advice column was founded in 1956 by her mother, Pauline “Popo” Phillips, who will celebrate her 94th birthday on July 4. (Popo’s twin sister Eppie Lederer aka the late great Ann Landers of Chicago fame, died of cancer at age 83 in 2002.)

Since Jeanne and the Dear Abby column are based in Los Angeles, it’s not often that we get her for a Chicago visit.

But this week, she’s the keynote speaker for a great conference event open to the public.

Compassion & Choices is the leading group working hard building bridges to improve care and expand choice at the end of life through support, education and advocacy.

The 2012 conference is in Chicago starting Thursday and continuing through Saturday. Held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, 9300 Bryn Mawr Ave. in Rosemont, Ill., the conference theme is “Heights of Compassion, Bridges to Choice” and offers a remarkable opportunity to connect with other end-of-life choice supporters, caregivers and activists.

Jeanne and her Dear Abby wit and wisdom opens the conference at 3 p.m. Thursday with her talk “The Common Sense Approach to End-Of-Life Choices” discussing the question: “Will they know what I want if I can’t speak for myself?”

The conference includes a wide choice of speakers, workshops and seminars during the three days, for participants to learn about advance directives, legal end-of-life options, palliative care and aid in dying. Social workers and others can receive training credit by attending.

Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee said her organization is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life.

She said this event is the largest gathering in the nation to connect end-of-life choice supporters, caregivers and activists, along with physicians from across the nation addressing end-of-life issues, as well as family members who will offer personal perspectives on supporting a loved one with a terminal illness. On Saturday, Coombs Lee will conclude the conference with an address on the state of the U.S. end-of-life choice movement.

Other keynote speakers for this conference include actress Megan Cole, news commentator Betty Rollin and palliative care counselor Stephen Jenkinson.

There are both daily rates available to attend to hear speakers, as well as overnight packages available and multiple day attendance options. FYI: compassionandchoices.org or (800) 247-7421.

United, as Women and for Women

Yesterday was the 101st annual International Women’s Day. In some countries this Day holds the same stature as Mother’s Day and celebrates women’s economic, political and social achievements. More or less concurrently, proposals landed in Congress and in states around the nation to excuse insurance plans and religious employers from birth control coverage if they have moral objections. That a day to honor women should fall amidst a political action so harmful to women – attacking something so basic and benign as contraception – demonstrates the inequities women still suffer even here in America, even now in 2012.

The crass and inaccurate rants that ensued should sound familiar. Arguments to deny women the right to choose what is suitable for their lives are interchangeable with the pious condemnations of terminally ill individuals’ right to choose what is suitable for their deaths. Targeting women is still easy and a sexual context lends an emotional charge to assaults on basic healthcare. But don’t be fooled. In any of these attacks, you can easily substitute “patients” for “women” and “suicidal” for “promiscuous.” Yes, this disrespect for a woman’s personal liberty masks what is in fact a disregard for the healthcare autonomy of all of us. The dictators of morality are no more respectful of end-of-life choice than they are of reproductive choice.

The burden of defending end-of-life choice falls more heavily on women, as we tend to live longer ourselves, and act as the caregivers and decision-makers for others who go before us.
We, as women and for women, must work together to secure the right to control our healthcare, make our own end-of-life choices, and let no one decide for us how much we or our loved ones should suffer. This effort needs information, organization and strategy to succeed. We’ve designed our upcoming conference in Chicago this June – Heights of Compassion, Bridges to Choice – to address issues of personal planning, personal activism and community advocacy.

Our conference can help you ensure your own end-of-life wishes are followed, deliver tools to empower your family and community for their protection, and reveal opportunities to help secure the full range of options for all Americans and future generations. Come take the power with effective tools to battle the forces that would limit our liberty. Let’s unify to create a single vibrant voice that speaks for the vast majority of Americans against the noisy few. Yes, we’ve come a long way; but clearly we’ve still some distance to go.