As an ordained United Church of Christ minister and skilled philanthropy executive, Matthew Nelson has shared his experience to help cultivate Compassion & Choices (C&C) into the movement leader it is today. His involvement began in the mid-‘90s, when, as an Oregon resident, he voted twice for the ballot measure that stands as the nation’s first death-with-dignity law. “Then my partner Kip and I decided we needed to be more involved, largely because of what we saw with the HIV/AIDS epidemic among many of our friends. And my father had recently died, which could have been a better experience,” says Matthew, who now lives in New York City and has been on C&C’s board of directors for more than six years.
With Compassion & Choices’ growth, Matthew’s role as a board member has been to help the board focus on strategic guidance. “There are a couple of things I value about how Compassion & Choices operates. One is the multiple ways we approach the issue. On the advocacy side, it’s not just legislative efforts; it’s also judicial efforts. It’s also legal cases. It’s looking at hospitals merging, and it’s looking at all of those aspects as well as creating coalitions with folks who would be strong advocates for our movement. And yet we still have the important piece where we work with clients and families, and are very patient-focused – the heart and soul of the organization,” says Matthew. “It all helps keep driving the movement forward in really creative ways. Because when you change laws, you impact hundreds of thousands of people rather than just one individual.
“You can’t change the world one person at a time; you can only change it if you change laws, change the hearts and minds of people in a big, large fashion. And I think that’s one of the things C&C does brilliantly. It makes big change as well as takes care of the individuals who are going through that process.”
Matthew, who also speaks publicly about end-of-life choice, feels heartened by the progress of the movement: “I think our society is having the end-of-life conversations they weren’t willing to have even five years ago. I admire and feel very proud of the work of Compassion & Choices.”
To see how you can get involved, check all these ways to become active in our movement, or call 800.247.7421.