Our Mission Statement
Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest, largest and most active nonprofit organization committed to improving care and expanding options for the end of life.
About Our Mission
Compassion & Choices improves care and expands options for the end of life. We support, educate and advocate. Across the nation, we work to ensure healthcare providers honor and enable patients’ decisions about their care. To make this vision a reality, Compassion & Choices works nationwide in state legislatures, Congress, courts, medical settings and communities to:
- empower people with information and tools, including our free consultation program, to receive healthcare that is consistent with their values and priorities as they approach the end of life.
- advance policies that allow people to make fully informed decisions about their healthcare, such as improving hospice and palliative care and ending unwanted medical treatment.
- authorize and implement medical aid in dying to allow mentally capable adults in their final weeks or months of a terminal disease to advance the time of death and end unbearable suffering.
It’s our belief — and our experience for the past 30 years — that the path to change starts with the individual, which is why patient-centered care stands at the core of all we do.
Learn more. Read or download About Compassion & Choices, a concise overview of our mission and current areas of work. Learn more about the challenges in end-of-life care facing many Americans by reading End-of-Life Care and Choice: The Looming Crisis of Suffering in the U.S.
Compassion & Choices’ innovative legal advocacy program helps people achieve better medical care and gain equal access to the full range of end-of-life options. Our litigation is widely acknowledged to have brought much-needed attention to end-of-life care and to have established important legal precedents, including a federal constitutional right to aggressive pain management.
Candid conversation is crucial to ensuring we get the care we want at the end of life, and so is reliable information. Our End-of-Life Information Center offers resources on end-of-life options and to help guide these important discussions with loved ones, healthcare providers and others close to us.
We firmly believe — and experience demonstrates — that working within healthcare systems to normalize medical aid in dying will ensure fewer people suffer at the end of their life. Our access program supports hospitals and healthcare systems in states where laws have been passed so that all terminally ill people who are eligible will have access to medical aid in dying.
We advocate for policies that empower people to control their own healthcare decisions. At the state level, we work to pass and then implement aid-in-dying laws so that mentally capable, terminally ill adults have access to all end-of-life options, no matter where they live.
At the federal level, we are driving a robust policy agenda and supporting bipartisan legislation in Congress to improve end-of-life care overall. We are also a founding collaborator on the Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment, an initiative to ensure that patients get the exact treatment they want – nothing more and nothing less – at the end of life.
For more than 30 years, by using a comprehensive strategy including legislative advocacy, grassroots organizing, media outreach and litigation, Compassion & Choices, our affiliates, and our predecessor organizations have led most of the significant advances in the movement to expand end-of-life-options and improve care. This includes:
Advanced Care Planning and End-of-Life Support
- Developed the first national end-of-life consultancy program in 1993, which offers patients and their families tools, information and emotional support on the full range of available end-of-life options.
- Pioneered the use of and transformed advance directives from strictly legal documents to a values-based approach for communicating end-of-life priorities. Compassion & Choices is one of the leading providers of advance directives, developed a dementia provision, and created one of the early and most widely disseminated toolkits to help translate people’s’ values into care preferences.
- Advocated for the successful adoption of a new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rule allowing the agency to reimburse doctors for advance healthcare planning discussions.
Palliative Care and Pain Management
- Legitimized palliative sedation as a recognized medical practice by advancing the court case that recognized that dying patients have a constitutional right to receive as much pain medication as necessary, even if it advances the time of death, in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Vacco v. Quill (1997).
- Established the undertreatment of pain as a form of elder abuse and that caregivers must manage patients’ pain in Bergman v. Eden Medical Center (2001).
- Increased physician training in palliative care in California. Passed AB 487: Pain Management and the Appropriate Care and Treatment of the Terminally Ill in California in 2001, collaborating with the California Medical Association. The law requires most California-licensed physicians to take, as a one-time requirement, 12 units of continuing medical education on pain management and “the appropriate care and treatment of the terminally ill.”
- Enacted requirements that healthcare providers share information on end-of-life options. Compassion & Choices sponsored and helped pass the Palliative Care Information Act in New York (2010) that requires healthcare workers to provide information and counseling on end-of-life options and the Right to Know law in California designed to ensure that patients can receive information about all of their legal end-of-life options.
Aid in Dying
- Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee co-authored Oregon’s landmark Death With Dignity Act, which went into effect in 1997. Eighteen years later, it is the model for aid-in-dying legislation nationwide.
- Pioneered the medical model of aid in dying that helps ensure that doctors can ethically practice aid in dying in an open, legitimate and accessible way, and integrates the option into patients’ end-of-life care. The culmination of that work was the publication of clinical criteria in the Journal of Palliative Medicine in December 2015.
- Advanced Glucksberg v. Washington (1997) to the U.S. Supreme Court. The landmark ruling encouraged individual states to engage in an “earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality and practicality of” medical aid in dying, setting the stage for the consideration of legislation at the state level.
- Secured authorization and implemented medical aid in dying in seven jurisdiction: Oregon (1994, ballot initiative), Washington (2008, ballot initiative), Montana (2009, state Supreme Court decision), Vermont (2013, legislation), California (2015, legislation), Colorado (2016, ballot initiative) Washington, D.C. (2017, legislation).
- Protected the Oregon Death With Dignity Act in court against two challenges, one from the National Right to Life Group and one from the U.S. Attorney General; protected the authorization of medical aid in dying in Montana against three legislative attempts to overturn the law; and have protected the law in Vermont against repeated legislative attempts to repeal or weaken the law.
A short fact sheet, Our Accomplishments Improving Care and Expanding Options, is available here. While much has been accomplished, Compassion & Choices will continue our work until full end-of-life options are available to all Americans.
Compassion & Choices receives stellar ratings from the nonprofit world’s major charity evaluators. The experts agree that we use your generous contributions effectively. Read more about our ratings.
Charity Navigator’s 4-star rating means Compassion & Choices is “Exceptional: Exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its Cause.” Charity Navigator has given this rating to Compassion & Choices for the fifth time in a row. “Only 5% of the charities we rate have received at least 5 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Compassion & Choices outperforms most other charities in America. This ‘exceptional’ designation from Charity Navigator differentiates Compassion & Choices from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.”
Compassion & Choices is a “GuideStar Gold” participant, which means we demonstrate our commitment to transparency by providing Guidestar with information on our impact and effectiveness. GuideStar does not rate or rank nonprofits.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s accreditation means that Compassion & Choices meets 20 exacting standards for charity accountability in governance and oversight, effectiveness, finances, solicitations and informational materials, and complaints.
Compassion & Choices is included in the organization’s Top-Rated Charities list because we meet CharityWatch’s transparency and governance benchmarks.
GreatNonprofits’ Top Rated
Compassion & Choices is included in the organization’s Top-Rated Charities list because we’ve amassed several stories submitted by people who know us best — our supporters, donors, volunteers, and others– all those who have experienced the impact of our work up close.
The Seven Principles of Person-Centered Care
End-of-life care should focus on the individual’s comfort.
Too often, death is seen as a failure of treatment, not a natural event. Physicians sometimes withdraw from patients who are in the terminal stage of illness or encourage them to continue invasive therapies that can make their final days miserable. This deprives people of the opportunity to enter what is sometimes called “the final stage of growth.”
You are in charge of your own care. Set your priorities in advance.
Individual tolerance for pain and suffering varies dramatically.
Only you can determine whether you are suffering too much. You should receive appropriate, state-of-the-art comfort care in accordance with your needs.
Providers should generously prescribe medication for pain and breathlessness, and give patients control over the dose and frequency of administration.
Symptoms such as hiccoughs, nausea, diarrhea, itching and fatigue can be oppressive and should be taken seriously. Say something if you feel you are being ignored, or empower your healthcare representative to speak on your behalf.
Decisions about end-of-life care begin and end with the individual.
The answer to the question, “Who should decide?” is “YOU.”
Even very ill people usually retain the capacity to make decisions. Loved ones and providers should take care not to usurp that authority when communication becomes difficult.
If you are no longer capable of making decisions, your known wishes (as detailed in your advance directive) still dictate the level of care you receive. Ensure clarity by completing a dementia provision.
4.) PERSONAL VALUES
You have the right to make decisions based on your own deeply held values and beliefs, without fear of moral condemnation or political interference.
Dying patients should not be subject to subtle or overt suggestions that their values are wrong or immoral. A provider’s beliefs should never supersede the patient’s. Providers who withhold vital information about treatment options must be held accountable. Compassion & Choices advocates for laws and policies that protect your rights.
5.) INFORMED CONSENT
You have the right to comprehensive, candid information to enable you to make valid decisions and give informed consent.
Compassion & Choices encourages you to assess your situation using the following “BRAIN” exercise. Before consenting to procedures and treatment, assess the: Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Insight into what these mean to you, and consequences of doing Nothing.
Ask the doctor these crucial questions as you consider disease-specific treatment:What is the chance it will prolong my life? By how much?
- What are the side effects?
- How will it affect my quality of life?
- What are the alternatives?
Providers should never withhold information about legal alternatives. Doing so deprives you of the information you need to give informed consent.
You must be empowered to make decisions based on your own assessment of the balance between quantity and quality of life.
You may reject treatment because of unacceptable side effects. Saying “no” to burdensome treatment may improve your quality of life and give you more opportunities to experience joy in the time you have left.
You as the patient have the right to early, forthright and complete notice of institutional or personal policies or beliefs that could impact your end-of-life wishes.
People who are dying often discover too late that the beliefs and values of their healthcare provider limit their personal end-of-life options.
Health-plan marketing materials and enrollment documents should prominently spell out any such limitations in a clear, forthright manner. Hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other healthcare institutions should publicly display information about restrictive policies of a religious or moral nature. Again, you and your representative should verify that your providers will adhere to your wishes.
Kevin Díaz, National Director of Legal Advocacy
Dr. David Grube, National Medical Director
Bonnie Lawhorn, National Director of Communications and Marketing
Charmaine Manansala, National Director of Political Advocacy
Linda Roth Platt, National Director of Development
Kimberly Taccini, Managing Director, Office of the CEO
Kat West, JD, National Director of Policy & Programs
Our Board of Directors
David N. Cook, MTh, JD, Chair
David brings extensive experience in nonprofit governance and organizational finance, as well as expertise in guiding coalitions of diverse stakeholders in pursuit of common legislative and policy initiatives. Formerly General Counsel of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and Deputy General Counsel of the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, he has practiced law for more than 40 years. David and his wife Ann are longtime supporters of the movement for end-of-life options. He was elected to the board in 2014.
Nancy Hoyt, Vice Chair
Nancy is a counseling psychologist and educator who has worked with adolescents in underserved Chicago schools. She is currently the vice president of the Civic Leadership Foundation’s board, whose program helps students develop the skills and experiences necessary to become engaged civic leaders. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her MA in organizational and counseling psychology from Teacher’s College, Columbia University. Nancy has served on many strategic planning committees in both secondary schools and colleges in New York and Chicago. She and her husband, Bob Hoyt, have been involved with Compassion & Choices for more than a decade.
Steve Hut, Secretary
Steve has been as an assistant public defender in Maryland since 2012, defending the indigent criminally accused and serving as general counsel for the office. From 1980 until 2012, he was a litigation partner in the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, where he handled a variety of complex business-litigation cases. He served for 15 years as chair of the firm’s pro bono program, which The American Lawyer consistently ranked among the top five in the country. He was recognized by The Baltimore Sun as its “person of the week” for his work in a case that brought a halt to Maryland’s death penalty. He has also served on a number of nonprofit boards.
Jaren Ducker, Treasurer
Jaren combines her career in antique jewelry with community service concentrated on civil liberties. She has been board president for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and the Denver Public Library Commission, and the ACLU of Colorado’s treasurer. She is currently president of the Denver Convention Center Hotel Authority board. She received the Margaret Sanger Award for exemplary leadership in furthering reproductive rights and the Carl Whitehead Award for lifetime contributions to civil liberties. She earned her BA in economics, cum laude, from Smith College. Jaren has long been committed to end-of-life choice and brings to Compassion & Choices that passion along with her extensive board experience.
Betsy Van Dorn, Executive Committee Member at Large, Development Chair
Betsy Van Dorn is a retired writer and founding editor of The Family Education Company, a web-based parent education site. She currently serves on the board of Fenway High School, an internationally recognized pilot school in Boston and volunteers as a docent at Discovering Justice, the James St. Clair Education Project at Boston’s Moakley Federal Courthouse. A graduate of Oberlin College and Boston University School of Education, Betsy worked for Houghton Mifflin Company, Harper and Row, Scott Foresman, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Pearson Education.
Debbi has been actively involved with Compassion & Choices since 2000. Her grandmother spent the last few months of her life distributing copies of Elisabeth Kubler Ross’ book On Death and Dying and preparing for a good death from the effects of cancer. Her mother was active in reproductive rights. Debbi Gibbs is the Director of Just Managing, a music agency, and has worked as an executive director in the broadcasting and entertainment industry for many years. She holds an Architecture degree and lives in New York with her son.
Dan was the founder and owner of a chain of office supply stores in Washington DC and New York City. He has been actively involved in a number of non-profit organizations in the US and internationally that promote individual freedom. He is past Chairman of the Board and a continuing Board Member of the Atlas Network and Foundation for Economic Education. He is also a current Board Member of a number of other non-profits. Additionally he serves as an advisor to a number of private companies. He is a graduate in Economics from Miami University (Ohio) and has an MBA in Finance from Columbia University in New York.
Samantha’s wide range of interests have found expression in both the for profit and not for profit worlds. She spent many years developing rental housing in New Jersey. She developed an art print business while raising her family in London. She did clinical social work at Mt Sinai Hospital in NYC and Beth Israel in Newark NJ. In the not for profit area she has served on various board supporting disabled young adults in a residential facility, supporting a local YMCA and contributing to the goals of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. Her interest in Compassion & Choices began initially with a C&C lecture on Living Wills and quickly extended to attending and then sponsoring events to introduce others to the organization.
Jerri is co-founder and President of JBS International, Inc., a consulting firm that works to strengthen health care, social service, and education systems in the U.S. and internationally. Her career has focused on vulnerable populations, expanding their access to and options for quality health care. Her work engages policy makers and program leaders in strengthening federal, state, and community health care policy and service delivery.
Dr. Haider Warraich is a physician, writer, researcher and brilliant new voice in the discussion about death and end-of-life care options, which include patient-centered care, hospice and palliative care and medical aid in dying. He authored the book, Modern Death – How Medicine Changed the End of Life (St Martin’s Press), in which he discusses the impact modern medicine has had on the dying experience. He also regularly writes for the New York Times; has contributed to The Guardian, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe; and has made TV appearances on CNN, PBS, Fox, BBC Radio and NPR among others.
Haider is also an avid clinical researcher with articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association and the Lancet amongst others. Currently, he is training in cardiology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Previously, he was a staff physician at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and instructor at Harvard Medical School, where he also received training in internal medicine.
Haider speaks regularly on care at the end of life, has delivered keynote addresses and lectures at conferences around the country include at academic medical centers such as Harvard, Yale, Wake Forest, Duke, UT Southwestern, UCLA and Columbia University amongst others.
Barbara Coombs Lee, PA, FNP, JD, President, ex officio
Barbara practiced as a nurse and physician assistant for 25 years before beginning a career in law and health policy. Since then she has devoted her professional life to individual choice and empowerment in health care. Barbara’s professional experience includes work as a private attorney, counsel to the Oregon State Senate, a managed care executive, and President of Compassion In Dying from 1996-2004. Barbara was Chief Petitioner for the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. She is a champion for enabling individuals with the freedom to consider a complete range of options and be full participants in their health care decisions. As President of Compassion & Choices, Barbara oversees advocacy, development, legislative and client support. Read Barbara’s full bio here.
Kim Callinan, Chief Executive Officer, ex officio
After almost 3 years as our chief program officer, Kim Callinan took on the position of chief executive officer on February 1, 2018.
As the chief program officer for Compassion & Choices, Kim has steered her team through unprecedented programmatic accomplishments. In this capacity, Kim 1) guided the program team through the authorization and implementation of medical aid-in-dying laws in California, Colorado and the District of Columbia; 2) integrated the organization’s successful efforts to persuade medical societies and health systems to accept medical aid in dying and integrate it into the standard of end-of-life care; and 3) launched the new Truth in Treatment initiative to empower patients with life-threatening diseases to get the care that reflects their goals, priorities and values.
Kim regularly authors thought-leadership pieces that detail the stark contrast between what consumers want and existing policies and practices in end-of-life care. Her opinion editorials and blogs include Allow Modern Medicine to Relieve Agonizing End-of-Life Experiences; Language Matters in Medical Aid in Dying Debate; People Should Have Choices as Their Life is Ending; Congress, Get It Right for Dying Americans; Truth in Treatment: Take Control of Your Healthcare Today; A Call to the Palliative Care Community for a Patient-Centered Response to Medical Aid in Dying; Medical Aid in Dying: The Hallmark of Patient-Centered Care; Five Questions to Ask About End-of-Life Care; and Advance Directives Are Only the First Step.
Kim is also frequently invited to speak at conferences, testify before state legislatures, conduct policy briefings and serve on committees as a subject-matter expert on end-of-life care options. She served on the Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable on Quality Care of People with Serious Illness, addressed the American Society of Aging’s National Forum: A Message to the President and spoke at the Center for Medicare Advocacy Voices of Medicare Summit. Kim has been interviewed by top national media outlets such as USA Today, Yahoo News, The Washington Post, The Washington Times and Vox, as well as countless state outlets
Prior to joining Compassion & Choices, Kim spent two decades creating integrated campaigns to engineer social change, including supporting issue campaigns to reduce the number of uninsured Americans and improve children’s health, and political campaigns at the federal, state and local levels. Kim holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University, a graduate certificate in public health from the University of South Florida and a bachelor’s degree in government from Oberlin College. She also holds a certificate in the fundamentals in gerontology through a joint program offered by the American Society on Aging and the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology.
Trish Bernstein, Chief Operating Officer, ex officio
Trish Bernstein serves as the chief operating officer at Compassion & Choices, the leading national nonprofit organization committed to helping everyone have the best death possible. In this capacity, Trish is responsible for human resources, board, IT, support services and facilities. Trish came to Compassion & Choices with almost two decades of experience running the operations of both national and nonprofit hospice and palliative care organizations. In addition to her work with hospice and palliative care providers, Trish has held regional positions with a nursing home chain, Alzheimer’s care provider, and a pharmaceutical company. Trish’s interest in the medical field began in Canada, where she was born and raised, and where she obtained a pharmacy technician diploma and a certificate in dental assisting. She later taught dental assisting, dental technology and pharmacy technology at a technical school in Michigan as well as helping train dental students at The University of Michigan dental school clinic. Trish also has a degree from The University of Michigan. She lived with her husband and son in the Washington, D.C. area for nearly 20 years before moving to Portland, Oregon in 2013. Patricia is dedicated to the cause of ensuring the highest quality of end-of-life care and support for patients and their families.
Marcia A. Campbell, CPA, Chief Financial Officer, ex officio
Marcia A. Campbell, CPA, is chief financial officer of Compassion & Choices. She has worked since 1978 as an accountant to a wide range of clients, ranging from manufacturers to mortgage brokers. She has earned a reputation as a successful CFO, controller, and human resources director for closely held private companies and nonprofit organizations. The Kansas City, Missouri, native is mother of two adult sons and enjoys painting when she puts down her calculator.
Our Board of Advisors
Marcia is senior lecturer in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. She is author of the book “Science on Trial: The Clash of Medical Evidence and the Law in the Breast Implant Case.”
Dr. Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) is a ’60s counter-culture icon, author and spiritual teacher. He has authored several books including “Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying.”
Nancy Neveloff Dubler, LL.B.
Nancy is director of the Bioethics Division at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y. Her many published works include “Ethics on Call: Taking Charge of Life and Death Choices in Today’s Health Care System.”
Olympia is an Academy Award-Winning actress and activist for issues including human rights, civil rights and the environment. Memorable roles include her Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winning performance in “Moonstruck” and her portrayal of a mother of an AIDS-afflicted man who seeks aid in dying in “The Event”
Dr. Etzioni is one of the most highly regarded public intellectuals. He authored 24 books including The Spirit of Community. He was Professor of Sociology at Columbia University for 20 years and taught at Harvard and Berkeley. He was a guest scholar at the Brookings institute and a Senior Advisor to the White House. He is the first University Professor at The George Washington University, where he is the Director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies. He served as president of the American Sociological Association in 1994-95 and has held many other esteemed positions and won myriad awards for his work.
Bruce is a constitutional and international lawyer and legal scholar. He was associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan and served on the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements in 2006. He is a frequent expert guest for the BBC, CNN, MSNBC and NPR.
Judith has captivated millions of readers worldwide with her novels. Her first effort “Scruples” shot to number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Her most recent work is her memoir “Sex and Shopping: Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl.”
Betty is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, author and former correspondent for NBC News. She now contributes reports for PBS’ Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. She has written seven books, including her best seller, Last Wish, published in 1985, which deals with the assisted suicide of her terminally ill mother and has led to her long involvement with the aid-in-dying movement.
Rev. Dr. Paul Smith
Smith is a pastor with the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. As Board Chairman of the Ethics Committee at Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital, he worked with Doctors and Staff to inform and support regarding difficult patient care decisions. Facing Death, Dr. Smith’s recently published book, chronicles ministering intimately to the dying and their loved ones. Currently, Dr. Smith is Executive Director of Healthy Families Brooklyn, a foundation dedicated to the improvement of access to health care in underserved communities.
Rev. John Shelby Spong
Spong is the retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, N.J., and the leading liberal theologian of our time. He has authored several best-selling books challenging the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality, the virgin birth and Christ’s resurrection.
Marilyn is a distinguished professor and co-director of the Journalism Department at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. Her Pulitzer Prize-nominated book “The Good Death: The New American Search to Reshape the End of Life” chronicles the lives of 15 terminally ill patients and explores the social, legal and moral issues surrounding death in America. She is the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today and a contributing writer and editor for New York Magazine among other publications.
Rev. Howard Moody
Moody, a self-proclaimed “trustful agnostic” presided over the congregation of Judson Memorial Church in the West Village neighborhood of New York City for 35 years. Moody led a group of peaceful protestors in the March on Washington, helped open a clinic to provide safe, affordable abortions years before Roe v. Wade and created an AIDS task force at Judson.
African American Leadership Council
Jason Gaulden Communications Director of America Succeeds, Principal, The Gaulden Group
Jason Gaulden is the Communications Director of America Succeeds, responsible for providing communications, fundraising, and operational support to the home office and affiliates in his role. He is also the founder and principal at Gaulden Group LLC, a consulting firm specializing in strategy, communications and fundraising services to public and private institutions. Jason draws upon fifteen years of professional experience in varying roles: executive leadership, philanthropy, marketing, technical writing, fund development, and nonprofit board service. Jason is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and graduated with honors. He later served two terms as Chair of the University’s Alumni Board.
Shirley Tabb, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker & Host – Social Work Today on BBS Radio
Shirley Tabb is a preeminent Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW – Washington DC and Licensed Clinical Social Worker – Clinical tract (Maryland) advocate who has assessed and helped over 1000 people in the District of Columbia access community resources and home health services under the Home and Community Based Medicaid Waiver for the Elderly and Disabled. Shirley has history of hosting her own talk show on DC Cable Television where she discussed pertinent issues facing poor, elderly, and disabled people receiving or in need of Medicaid or private-pay home health care. These shows are available for viewing on YouTube and Vimeo.
Shawn Perry, Executive Producer & Host – The Senior Zone
Shawn Perry executive produces and host of The Senior Zone; a weekly radio program dedicated to serving the needs of the older adult community. Since 2012, Shawn has worked tirelessly to promote the wellbeing of older adults and champion their causes. He attributes his reverence for the older adults to his late grandmother, Rosa Perry, who instilled a profound sense of empathy for the vulnerable, frail and elderly. Shawn is a retired military officer; serving nearly 22 years in the U.S. Air Force, has a B.S. from the University of Maryland, and has lived in the Washington, D.C., area for the past 32 years.
Sultan Shakir, Executive Director of Supporting & Mentoring Youth Advocates & Leaders (SMYL)
Sultan Shakir is the Executive Director of SMYAL, an organization that works to support and empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Sultan works to expand opportunities for young LGBTQ people through youth empowerment. Prior to joining SMYAL, Sultan worked at the Human Rights Campaign where he served as a director of the D.C. and Maryland marriage equality campaigns, and in his most recent role, led the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Project, working to make campuses safer and more inclusive of LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff.
Dr. Omega Silva, Endocrinology & Internal Medicine, Professor emeritus of medicine at the George Washington University.
Dr. Omega Silva is professor emeritus of medicine at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a medical review officer for Employee Health Programs in Bethesda, Maryland. She is a long-standing advocate for universal health care and a committed supporter of the advancement of women in medicine. In 1999 Dr. Silva was appointed President-Elect of the American Medical Women’s Association.
Reverend Madison Shockley, Pastor of the Pilgrim United Church of Christ
Rev. Madison Shockley The Rev. Madison T. Shockley II is the pastor of the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA. He brings to Pilgrim Church a wealth of experience from his work in the political, non-profit and media environments. Originally ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1979, he served churches in St. Louis, Denver and Seattle. In 1990, he joined the United Church of Christ when he accepted the call to the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship, UCC, in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, he became a leader in the aftermath of the 1992 riots by organizing and hosting an interracial dialogue to heal the broken community.
Dr. Lucille Ridgill, Medical Director – VITAS Healthcare
Lucille Ridgill is a Medical Director for VITAS Healthcare, the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care. Dr. Ridgill oversees the medical care and treatment of VITAS patients in their homes, nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care homes in Coastal Cities, California. She also consults with patients’ attending physicians, supervises VITAS team physicians, guides staff and volunteers, and serves as a resource to practicing physicians and other healthcare professionals on the benefits of hospice and palliative care for patients and their families. Board certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Dr. Ridgill received a Bachelor’s Degree from Creighton University and a Medical Degree from Creighton University Medical School, both in Omaha, Nebraska. She completed a residency at UCLA-Charles Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles. Dr. Ridgill is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Channte’ Keith, Director of Programs for National African American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAAPTPN)
Channte’ Keith, director of programs for National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, received her master’s degree in public administration from North Carolina Central University and has dedicated most of her career to tobacco control. Keith has served in capacities including program development, community outreach and grant management. She is responsible for the My Doc Cares Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program which supports doctors in their efforts to address patient tobacco use. Today, Keith continues in public health with NAATPN by developing the strategic direction for its tobacco, cancer and HIV programs.
Delores Lewis, Senior Advisor to the Mayor of Newark, NJ; Volunteer Coordinator and Advocate for senior citizens
Delores Lewis has served in various capacities in Newark’s city government for 33 years, proudly serving in the Kenneth Gibson, Sharpe James and Ras Baraka administrations. Currently she serves as a volunteer Coordinator for the senior community for Mayor Baraka, a role she cherishes.
Reverend Charles W. McNeill, Jr., Senior Pastor
Reverend Charles Winston McNeill, Jr., is a native of Erwin, North Carolina. He is one of five children and the oldest son born to Charles Winston McNeill, Sr., and Bessie Campbell McNeill. He has been married to the former Audrey McDonald for 22 wonderful and magnificent years. From their union, they have a lovely daughter named Jade Noelle.
Latino Leadership Council
Mauricio Ochmann, Actor, California
Mauricio Ochmann is a Mexican actor known as “Chema Venegas” in the popular Telemundo telenovelas El Chema (nickname for “Jose Maria”) and El Señor de los Cielos (The Lord of the Skies). He recently broke records with the international film Hazlo Como Hombre (Do it Like a Man) in which he stars with his actress wife, Aislinn Derbez. In Oct. 2014, Ochmann became the first celebrity in Hollywood to publicly endorse Compassion & Choices’ campaign to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation in California at a time when many Latinos were reluctant to engage in conversations about end-of-life care. In 2016, Mauricio recorded a 15-second public service announcement in Spanish that we released last March to urge Latinos to support the passage of New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act.
Reverend Dr. Ignacio Castuera, Minister, California
Reverend Castuera is a minister at the United Methodist Church in Claremont, California. He is a civil and human rights activist who worked on the California campaign to pass the End of Life Option Act. A former Compassion & Choices board member, Rev. Castuera has championed numerous social issues that have grown quickly into wider acceptance. He was the national chaplain for Planned Parenthood for six years, married gay couples on national and international television, and has been a strong voice in the movement to authorize the option of medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults. Rev. Castuera holds a Doctor of Religion degree from Claremont School of Theology and taught Contemporary Theology at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology for 25 years.
Dolores Huerta, Civil Rights Activist, California
Dolores Huerta is an iconic civil rights activist, president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and cofounder of the United Farm Workers Union. She has won numerous national awards, including the the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her support of the End of Life Option Act in California was critical important to the passage of the law because she encouraged Latino legislators who were hesitant to support the bill in 2015. Dolores’ advocacy was inspired by helping watching her mother’s suffering as she died from terminal breast cancer that had spread throughout her body.
Robert Olvera, M.D., California
Dr. Robert Olvera is a retired physician in Orange County, whose advocacy for medical aid in dying was inspired by watching helplessly as his daughter Emily Rose Olvera suffered for 17 years from a rare form of leukemia. During the last months of her life, Emily Rose suffered in agony from excruciating headaches that no painkiller could alleviate, was blind, confined to her bed, and gasping for breath. Dr. Olvera, a devout Catholic, pledged to fight for end-of-life care options in memory of his daughter.
Dan Diaz, California
Dan Diaz is the husband of Brittany Maynard, who died in November 2014 from a brain tumor. The couple moved from California to Oregon, one of four states at that time that had authorized medical aid in dying so Brittany could get the prescription for aid-in-dying medication to ensure she would have a gentle dying process instead of an agonizing one. As a result of Brittany’s story, in 2015 legislators introduced bills to authorize medical aid in dying in California, 24 other states as well as Washington, D.C. Dan advocates for expanding the availability of end-of-life care options for terminally ill, mentally capable individuals. Dan’s efforts were instrumental in securing the passage of the End of Life Option Act in California, and his efforts to advance similar bills continue in the other states across the country.
Father Luis Barrios, New York
Father Luis Barrios is a priest at Iglesia Episcopal Santa Cruz/Holyrood Episcopal Church and a professor at John Jay College in New York City.
Reverend Sergio Camacho, California
Rev. Sergio Camacho is the Latino ministry pastor at Lancaster United Methodist Church.
Nilsa Centeno, Puerto Rico
Nilsa Centeno is the mother of the late Miguel Carrasquillo, a 35-year-old former chef in Chicago and New York who died in his native Puerto Rico of brain cancer in June 2016. He became Compassion & Choices’ first bilingual advocate when he recorded videos in English and in Spanish to urge his fellow Latinos to support giving terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying.
Irisaida ‘Isa’ Mendez, Florida
Irisaida ‘Isa’ Mendez is a seasoned multicultural communications and development consultant for leading corporations looking to penetrate the Latin American and US Hispanic markets. She has held a variety of leadership roles at Make-A-Wish Foundation and San Jorge Children’s Hospital in Puerto Rico, Spirit Airlines and the American Red Cross. Her trademark is to create strategies that promote philanthropic interest for individuals and the corporate world.
Dr. Yanira Cruz
Dr. Yanira Cruz is president and chief executive officer of the National Hispanic Council on Aging in Washington, D.C. She earned a Master’s degree and a Doctorate degree in public health with a specialty in global health from The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.
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