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.

Breaking News Out of New Jersey

New Jersey General Assembly

The New Jersey Assembly passed its own version of Death with Dignity today, modeled on Oregon's 20 year old legislation to allow a terminally ill patient to choose the timing and manner of death. The bill passed by a vote of 41-31 in the Assembly, and now heads to the state Senate for approval.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli has championed the bill over the last two years, quietly at first, and then with more urgency as the bill gained momentum. His sister-in-law, Claudia Burzichelli, testified in front of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee in favor of the bill, disclosing her own diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

On his website, Burzichelli says, "Like society, medicine, palliative care and hospice services have changed dramatically since [a similar piece of legislation was introduced in 1978]. While there are many choices available right now that may be right for certain people, there is one more choice, not currently available, that deserves an honest discussion."

A companion bill awaits attention in the state Senate, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has announced his opposition to the bill.

Read more: Breaking News Out of New Jersey

Brittany Maynard: In Her Own Words

Rest in Peace Brittany Maynard
Image care of ET Online

Brittany Maynard, the heroic young woman who shared her decision to request prescribed medication allowed under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, has died. All of us at the Death with Dignity National Center would like to express our deepest condolences to her family through this very difficult time.

Read more: Brittany Maynard: In Her Own Words

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Portland Thorns players Alex Morgan and Allie Long taking the Ice Bucket Challenge

Much controversy has swirled around the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Supporters and fans argue it is a social media craze engaging countless new donors and raising desperately-needed funds for an important cause. Critics argue the Challenge is a prime example of slacktivism, offering individuals the opportunity to believe they have done something to contribute to the solution of a serious social problem—without really doing anything.

A review for those of you who do not know what the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is, using Facebook, individuals challenge three friends and colleagues to have a bucket of ice dumped over their head within the next 24 hours. In one version, the challenge is to make a $100 donation to an ALS-oriented charity or get doused by a bucket of water; in the other more common version, participants donate and douse while filming the ice bucket experience, posting the video to Facebook, and challenging others.

Read more: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Building Infrastructure and Effective Coalitions

This spring and summer, I embarked on a journey to author a five-part blog post series about how to build momentum to advocate for Death with Dignity policy reform in your state. During the initial post, I talked about how to engage with your family and friends in conversations about hastened dying; in the second, I provided guidance about steps needed to learn more about the issue and build alliances. In the third post, I discussed the ABCs of ballot initiative and legislative campaigns.

In this blog post, the fourth in the series, I will talk about building organizational infrastructure and coalitions.

Read more: Building Infrastructure and Effective Coalitions

Ask DDNC: Advance Care Planning

We frequently get asked questions about Death with Dignity or advance care planning for situations where dementia might be involved. Many individuals have concerns about confronting Alzheimer's disease or other dementias in the future; others are in the midst of difficult and frightening situations when their family members are struggling with the disease.

The uncomfortable reality is there are no easy or clear cut answers. None of the three states with Death with Dignity laws allow individuals to participate who have dementia or Alzheimer's disease advanced to the degree where judgment or decision-making is impaired. Those with early stage dementia without cognitive impairment do not qualify because they do not have a terminal diagnosis.

In the absence of expanded end-of-life care choices, advance care planning is essential. Two documents to consider: Health Care Directive (also called a Living Will) and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (most states allow you to combine these into one document). There are online versions available (MyDirectives), but the most prudent advance planning approach involves working with an attorney who is familiar with your state's rules and regulations.

Read more: Ask DDNC: Advance Care Planning

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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.

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