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.

Why I Advocate for Death with Dignity

When I was growing up in Boone, Iowa, death and dying were a matter of fact in my family. My mother was a hospice nurse, and when we gathered around the dinner table, conversations about death were common.

But I wouldn't face death on a deep, personal level until much later. In 1989, I graduated from college and met John. By the time we got married two years later, John had been diagnosed with HIV. Nearly everyone with the virus died badly back then, and my husband’s immediate response was, "I don't want to die that way."

It was then that I truly understood how important it is for a dying person to be able to decide how they die. As his health declined, John wanted to be in control of his own medical care, including how he died. He'd been in charge of his life; all he wanted was to be in charge of it until the very end.

Time and again, I've seen people join the Death with Dignity movement because of a personal experience like mine. Will you share your story with me? What inspired you to get involved with our cause? What does Death with Dignity mean to you?

Read more: Why I Advocate for Death with Dignity

The Washington Post Endorses Death with Dignity

There's huge news today in our mission to give people more options about how to live their final days. And we urgently need your help.

When I visited with District of Columbia Councilmember Mary Cheh earlier this year, there was a thick binder on her desk labeled, "Death with Dignity 2011." I knew we had found the strong ally we needed—one who had been thinking about this issue for years.

Today, just a week after we went to the Washington Post to make our case, the paper's influential editorial board strongly endorsed her bill, the District of Columbia Death with Dignity Act of 2015. You can read the endorsement here: "A humane way to end life," The Washington Post

The bill will give terminally ill DC residents with less than six months to live the option to end their lives at a time and place of their own choosing. It's written carefully and narrowly, with plenty of safeguards. In fact, it's modeled on the Oregon law that has worked flawlessly since going into effect in 1997.

Here's why we need your help today.

Share Your Story

The bill is on the fast track. A hearing has already been scheduled for July 10.

Read more: The Washington Post Endorses Death with Dignity

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


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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