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Volunteer Spotlight: Susan Shapiro

Devoted Massachusetts volunteer Susan Shapiro contributed greatly to the end-of-life choice movement from 2008 until her death on April 30.

“She was a bright light sending a very clear message,” says Compassion & Choices Massachusetts Campaign Manager Marie Manis, who met Susan in the lead-up to Massachusetts’ death-with-dignity ballot initiative in 2012 – one month before Susan received her terminal cancer diagnosis. “There were plenty of times when she was going through chemo and was just plain worn out, but right afterward she would attend hearings and lobby days. She would do interviews and speak at press events.”

A social worker who spent part of her career as a geriatric care manager, Susan worked with the elderly for many years and saw the difficulties they often faced at the end of their lives when they lacked the full range of care options. When she learned she had ovarian cancer in 2012, end-of-life autonomy became a very personal issue for her.

Susan was very comfortable talking about death – even her own, and she bravely attached her name, face and personal story to the movement that was so important to her. A prolific networker, she educated her family, friends and doctors about Compassion & Choices and about death with dignity, urging them to take action, whether it was making a contribution or a phone call.

“When she talked to people, it was in a way they could receive it – not combative or preachy,” says Merri Lea Shaw, a close friend of Susan’s since 1975, when they attended graduate school at Smith college together. Merri Lea got involved with C&C when her family contacted our End of Life Consultation Service to help her parents. Susan learned about C&C then and was immediately supportive of people having the option to control their own death, wanted it to be legal and was willing to do something about it.

“She was one of my first friends to get on board and want to help in some way,“ says Merri Lea. “She really took it on and went the extra mile with phone calls, meetings at the state house and interviews.”

Susan is dearly missed by friends, family and fellow supporters in Massachusetts. Her tireless work fighting for an issue she passionately believed in continues to resonate.

“She was a very courageous woman,” Marie recalls. “She remained active and involved, and stayed committed until the end. It was that important to her.”

Find out how you can get involved by visiting our Volunteer Action Center