Melissa Barber

Melissa, who served as our Director of Digital Communications from 2010-2014, is a native Idahoan and has called Oregon home for over half her life. She joined the National Center team after ten years of volunteering and working for the local nonprofit Friends of Trees, with a two-year break serving as a Health Education volunteer with the Peace Corps in the West African nation of Mali. Prior to the Peace Corps, Melissa worked as the operations manager and in-house techie for Arcadia Investment Advisors. Throughout her career she has striven to find new ways to connect people, build community, and use technology to heighten the awareness of important causes like Death with Dignity. She graduated with a BS in Biology from Pacific University.

Farewell and Thank You

Melissa Barber, VT Gov Peter Shumlin, and George Eighmey at VT's bill signing ceremony

With mixed emotions, I'm leaving the Death with Dignity National Center at the end of this week. When I started at the National Center in 2010, I was charged with building an online community around death and dying—no easy feat considering most people avoid the subject as much as possible. But together, with the help of many of you long-time and new supporters, we've built a thriving and invigorating community around a difficult and often taboo subject. Thank you.

Communities, by their very nature, aren't one-person endeavors. They form over time as people with many different backgrounds and beliefs find commonality. Over the last four and a half years, I'm pleased to have engaged in online conversations with conservatives, liberals, atheists, believers, supporters and even opponents (or people who were once opponents). We haven't always agreed, and that's only made our community stronger. By sharing our different opinions, feelings, and beliefs we've made our own individual worlds larger and richer.

It's an exciting time for Death with Dignity. During my time here, I was privileged to be part of a near win in Massachusetts and work directly with Vermonters to see the over ten years of work come to fruition with the first Death with Dignity law on the east coast. The movement is on the cusp of a rapid acceleration of momentum, and several states are poised to move forward with laws of their own in the near future.

Read more: Farewell and Thank You

Brittany Maynard's Decision to Die with Dignity

Brittany Maynard with her Great Dane, Charlie. Photo by Dan Diaz

A young woman named Brittany Maynard, like so many others, has a compelling story to share. She is bravely facing her death with dignity and control, and when the time is right, she may choose to hasten her own death. If you're not from Oregon, you might wonder how she can do that. In fact, our phones have been steadily ringing due to callers wanting to learn more about Death with Dignity.

In Oregon, Death with Dignity has been legal for 20 years. The Oregon Death with Dignity Act allows mentally competent, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the right to request medication to hasten their deaths. Once a person completes the request process and receives the prescribed medication, it's fully in the patient's hands to decide whether or when to take the medication, and about a third of the people who request the prescribed medication never take it.

Our hearts go out to Brittany and her family. She and her husband were trying for a family when the news came. After suffering from crippling headaches for months, she learned she had brain cancer in January, 2014. Hardly a year after getting married and 29 years old—her whole life ahead of her—her life was turned upside down in a moment.

Read more: Brittany Maynard's Decision to Die with Dignity

This Week in the Movement

Nylah Kitty, check out the rest of the internet famous cats purriodic table!

Throughout the week, we keep people up-to-date about the Death with Dignity movement and other topics related to end-of-life care through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Below are highlights from the last couple of weeks.

Efforts regarding Death with Dignity:

Read more: This Week in the Movement

This Week in the Movement

Quote by Jessica Hische

Throughout the week, we keep people up-to-date about the Death with Dignity movement and other topics related to end-of-life care through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Below are highlights from the last several weeks.

Efforts regarding Death with Dignity:

Read more: This Week in the Movement

A Lesson from Joan

Joan and Melissa Rivers

Joan Rivers—love her or hate her—was a larger than life personality. She bucked the notion that women can't be funny and paved the way for many other female comedians to step into the limelight. Tina Fey, a comedy superstar in her own right, reflected on Rivers' influence recently in an interview during the Toronto Film Festival, "Whether that was her intention or not she definitely opened doors for other women in comedy."

Rivers saw no topic as taboo, and contrary to many Americans, she spoke quite openly about death, dying, and what she wanted for her funeral as she did in this recording:

When I die (and yes, Melissa, that day will come; and yes, Melissa, everything's in your name), I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, and action...I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. Don't give me some Rabbi mumbling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so strong that even in the casket, my hair will be blowing more than Beyonce's on stage.

Read more: A Lesson from Joan


Defend dignity. Take action.

You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, nonprofit organization, has been the leading advocate in the Death with Dignity movement. Individual contributions helped us pass new Death with Dignity laws in Washington and Vermont, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the Death with Dignity movement.

donate today