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The State That Started It All Celebrates 20 Years

On October 27, 1997, Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act — the first law in America of its kind — went into effect, allowing terminally ill adults to end their lives in a more gentle manner than their diseases might allow and setting the precedent for all laws of its kind that have followed. Compassion & Choices Oregon heralded 20 years of this benevolent, pioneering practice with a sold-out event attended by friends from across the nation.

Former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts, who endorsed the landmark bill when in office and remains a steadfast supporter, was a featured speaker. Her late husband, Frank, a senior member of the state Senate, had tried three times to pass a medical aid-in-dying law before dying of cancer in 1993. Gov. Roberts gave a powerful endorsement of Compassion & Choices’ new Truth in Treatment initiative, which aims to give people more information about and control over their medical care, noting the experience she and Frank had navigating his treatment decisions.

Musician Peter Yarrow of the legendary folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary rounded out the evening with a rousing, interactive concert, imploring audience members to at points sing along, link arms and even join him on stage. Yarrow, who also appeared on the cover of C&C’s spring 2017 magazine, became a board member of Connecticut Hospice following his mother’s experience there before her death.

“We laughed, we cried, we sang, and we all left inspired to continue to work diligently to heal the world that we live in,” reflected emcee Matt Whitaker after the event, which was streamed live via C&C Oregon’s Facebook page and can be viewed here.