Joan Stucker joined the fight for end-of-life options before the California legislative campaign picked up steam in 2014. She helped start a program called Friends of Compassion & Choices, which grew to include an email tree of over 600 people and accelerated volunteerism in the campaign. She and other Coachella Valley Action Team volunteers made phone calls to fellow citizens and lobbied their legislators. Joan’s work didn’t end when the California End of Life Options Act went into effect in 2015. “It’s one thing to pass the law, and it’s another to get people really informed about it and get physicians willing to help patients with this option,” she says. “Getting the law passed wound up just being the beginning.”
Joan considers the best weapon in this movement to be education and discussion. She’s had conversations with her own family, friends and physicians, encouraged others to do the same, and led talks at local groups and hospice centers. Recently, she helped plan a protest at Eisenhower Medical Center, a large medical system in the Rancho Mirage, California, area that has a resistive policy to aid in dying. About 80 supporters came out to protest the policy and ask Eisenhower to provide end-of-life options to their community. A few days later, Eisenhower’s chief medical officer made a statement clarifying its stance: Doctors can’t write prescriptions on their properties.
Even though Eisenhower has dug in on its position, Joan thinks the continual pressure of direct action can and will turn the tide. While these avenues might not be convenient or easy, Joan says, “If people are really determined, there are things we can do.” For her, securing end-of-life options for the over 50 percent of 70-year and older patients serviced by Eisenhower is worth the fight.