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.

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

Staff Spotlight: Cindy Silveira

Cindy Silveira, MPA

Today we'd like to introduce you to a new member of our team, Cindy Silveira, MPA.

As part of the strategic planning process at the National Center, we've added capacity by hiring new staff members. It's exciting to have fresh energy and new enthusiasm in our offices, and we're eager to share their stories with you.

One new staff person who you may encounter in your interactions with our organization is Cindy Silveira, Director of Leadership Giving.

Cindy grew up in rural Oregon, but started her career in Boston, MA, where she attended the University of Massachusetts. Since moving back to Oregon in 1989, she earned a Master's Degree in Public Administration and has built a career as a leader in fundraising and philanthropy.

She has served as Chief Development Officer for the American Red Cross in Oregon and Southwest Washington and has successfully led major fundraising programs at Providence Cancer Center, Lewis and Clark Law School and Peace Health Foundation, Vancouver.

In her role at the National Center, Cindy will be building a major gifts program and planned giving program for our organization. Her first task has been to meet with long term National Center supporters throughout the nation and to build a fundraising plan that will support expansion of our activities.

Read more: Staff Spotlight: Cindy Silveira

The Basics of Ballot Initiatives and Legislative Advocacy

Know How Laws Are Made and Who Controls What Decisions

This is the third in a series of posts focused on steps you can take to pave the way for Death with Dignity policy reform in your state. During the first, I provided guidance on how to talk to your friends, family members, and colleagues about the issue; in the second, I offered an overview about learning the issue and engaging allies.

If you've progressed this far, you know a lot more about the issue than you did when you first started, you have heard intimate life and death stories from your friends and colleagues, and you have identified a small, but dedicated, group of supporters who are ready to jump into this process with you.

At its core, policy reform is about organizing and political work. This third blog post is focused on the technicalities of ballot initiative work and the legislature.

Read more: The Basics of Ballot Initiatives and Legislative Advocacy

Engaging Allies and Learning the Issue

The Organizing Cycle care of COPA

Three states have laws permitting Death with Dignity: Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Two have positive court decisions determining physicians cannot be prosecuted for prescribing medications to hasten death under certain narrow circumstances: Montana and New Mexico (under appeal). But if you live in another state and you want to help enact a Death with Dignity law, what steps can you take? This is the second in a series of five blog posts about early organizing efforts you can undertake to help pave the way for passing a law in your state.

In the first, I focused on the important first step of talking to your friends, neighbors, and family members about Death with Dignity and end-of-life care policy reform.

One of the interesting things about talking to your colleagues with intent about death and dying issues is you will find strong support in areas you did not even know existed. One political organizer told me she thought our supporters were as dedicated as the most dedicated volunteers in politics (teachers and firefighters are the most dedicated, in case you're curious).

Read more: Engaging Allies and Learning the Issue

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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, 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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