Peg Sandeen, PhD, MSW

Peg is the Executive Director of the Death with Dignity National Center (DDNC) and a native Iowan. She earned her PhD in Social Work and Social Research from Portland State University and her master's degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa. Peg's an experienced direct practice social worker, specializing in issues related to terminal illness and end-of-life processes, and has an extensive background in policy analysis and strategic leadership for policy reform efforts through both ballot initiative and legislative means. Prior to her engagement with DDNC, she was the Executive Director of the AIDS Project of Central Iowa. As a result of her exploration of complex ethical, legal and medical issues related to social work, Peg was named a Price Fellow in HIV Prevention Leadership by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her scholarly and professional efforts focus on health-related ethical concerns, particularly end-of-life decision-making, and the impact of public opinion on policy reform. Peg joined DDNC in March 2005.

So You Want to Pass a Death with Dignity Law in Your State

The number one constituent question we get at the National Center is, "what do I need to do to pass a Death with Dignity law in my state?" The answer is never easy because enacting a Death with Dignity law through the legislative process or ballot initiative is a complex, time-intensive, and expensive endeavor.

In a legislative environment, lawmakers are afraid of legislation focused on death even though repeated polls show a majority of Americans support Death with Dignity laws. Ballot initiatives are costly and time-consuming, requiring years of background work and the engagement of expensive professional political advisors nearly every step of the way.

The unfortunate reality is, while there's a lot of activity and momentum in the New England region, not every state is ready to move forward immediately with Death with Dignity policy reform.

There are, however, lots of things you can do in your own state to jumpstart momentum and engage others in your request to push for reform, and I'm writing a five-part blog post about different ways to begin the process of legislative engagement in your state. Today's post is focused on identifying allies because one thing is certain: you cannot do this alone.

Read more: So You Want to Pass a Death with Dignity Law in Your State

Public Displays of Cancer

Lisa Bonchek Adams' Twitter profile

There isn't much to add to the ongoing cultural conversation about Lisa Bonchek Adams, a woman with stage 4 breast cancer who is using Twitter and the blogosphere as a platform to tell her life's story, and Emma and Bill Keller, a wife and husband team of opinion columnists who publicly questioned the seriously ill woman's use of Twitter.

The story as it played out in the media goes something like this: Adams was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago at the age of 37. She's a mother with three young children whose goal is to live long enough to see her children grow up. Like many individuals with the disease, she's sought out aggressive treatment for metastatic breast cancer. She's a prolific blogger and uses Twitter to chronicle her life.

Read more: Public Displays of Cancer

Help Us Prepare for 2014

Penny Shelfer

I can't believe how quickly this year's flown by. Thankfully, there's still time to make your donation and get your 2013 tax deduction!

Your gift will make it possible for us to continue working with advocates like Penny in Texas. A few years back, Penny learned she had stage III breast cancer, and like many who face a grave cancer diagnosis, the first word that came to mind was Death. Prolonged and pain filled.

The fear she faced led her to research different end-of-life options and the Death with Dignity laws we promote. Knowing our organization is there to help gave her comfort and peace of mind.

The national conversation about Death with Dignity is growing and changing at a faster pace than ever, and we look forward to building our local partnerships with advocates like Penny.

Your year-end, tax-deductible donation today will get us ready for the challenges ahead. Thank you.

Read more: Help Us Prepare for 2014

Showtime's Time of Death

Time of Death is a new series on Showtime depicting stories of families with a terminally ill member. Presented in documentary fashion, producers of the series aim to deliver intimate portrayals of the final moments of life.

This series is well worth a moment of your time, even during this busy holiday season; it provides a realistic glimpse into the dying process—one not presented in most movies or television shows. It doesn't contain glamorized stories of heroic and successful medical treatments. Each week, we meet new characters; each week they die. In between, they undergo medical treatments, struggle with family issues, and grapple with mortality.

In the first episode, available free on YouTube or on the Showtime website, viewers meet Michael, a man diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer of the connective tissue. Michael accepts his impending death with grace, while his taciturn father struggles to cope with the fast-moving reality of his son's mortality. The hospice nurse helps his family understand the dying process as he takes his final breath.

Read more: Showtime's Time of Death

Transitions and Celebrations: A Note from Executive Director Peg Sandeen

You may recall, we celebrated recently the addition of long-time Oregon Death with Dignity Act expert George Eighmey to our board. George's presence has strengthened our expertise in the areas of implementation and community-building, and we're already feeling the positive impacts of his involvement.

Along with the celebration of additions to our board, though, we must celebrate those individuals who are moving off of our board. Three individuals who've made tremendous contributions to the Death with Dignity movement are leaving our board at this end-of-year transition time.

Betty Rollin, who at her last board meeting recounted 17 years of service to the National Center, is one of our organization's longest serving board members. Betty came to the movement after her mother's cancer diagnosis and death, writing about it in the book, Last Wish. Betty's personal experience and passion for the movement have been the driving force behind countless hours of volunteer work on behalf of the National Center and multiple public presentations to raise awareness about this important issue.

Read more: Transitions and Celebrations: A Note from Executive Director Peg Sandeen


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, non-profit organization, has been the leading advocate in the death with dignity movement. Member contributions helped us pass a new Death with Dignity law in Washington, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the death with dignity movement.

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