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Advocating for Death with Dignity, Step 1: Start a Group

April 10, 2014

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 physician-assisted dying law through either the legislative process or ballot initiative is complex, time-intensive, and expensive.

Legislators are apprehensive of laws focused on end-of-life even though repeated polls show a majority of Americans support physician-assisted death laws. Both require 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. This article is first in a series about different ways to begin the process in your state. Today’s post is focused on identifying allies because one thing is certain:

You cannot do this alone.

Understand Your Commitment

Before you start, you need to understand your own commitment, including time and resource restraints. To effectively engage legislators, you may need to make a two to three year commitment of at least five hours a week. That’s a big investment of your time.

Once you know you can do this, you can ask others to join you. The decision to go forward as an advocate for statewide reform should be made with both deliberation and consultation with your family and friends.

Assemble a Core Group

After this is accomplished, the next step is to assemble a core group who share your commitment to this issue. Realistically, you’ll need five or six people willing to volunteer approximately ten hours a month. To find such dedicated people—those who will become your “inner circle” of confidantes—you probably need to approach a minimum of 25 potential candidates.

This process may seem daunting, but it will get easier because you’ll repeat it over and over again throughout the time you’re engaged with the issue. In politics, when you don’t have big money, you have to have people, and our movement is all about people.

You will uncover two wonderful things: There’s more support in your community for assisted dying than you realize and people have the most amazing, and sometimes tragic), stories to share.

For the most part, you’ll want to meet your potential volunteers face to face. In these earliest of days, public meetings are not a good idea. Ask five friends to tea. Ask another five to join you for happy hour. Talk to five people at your place of worship, on your bowling league, or at your fitness club. You’ll find an ally willing to do this work with you, and then another. Listen to their stories, and see what happens.

Featured image by Wonder woman0731.

2 Comments.

Vivian haddad
October 30, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Is there a group of advocates in Florida?

Don Landry
December 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Hello Vivian My name is Don Landry and I am interested in getting a group started in Florida. I have been studying the alternatives and would be interested in your Thoughts.
Don Landry Please email me.

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Afterword: Physician-Assisted Death Concepts

Death with Dignity Act Pros and Cons

Though support for end of life options like dying with dignity consistently registers in national polls, at nearly 70 percent, there are still those who are against the practice, using divisive and biased terms like “physician-assisted suicide” or “euthanasia” which can scare people and misrepresents what these laws accomplish. Advocates support aid in dying bills because of the freedom and control they can bring to terminally ill patients who will die regardless. Many of these dying patient are in enormous pain or dealing with reduced functioning in their last weeks or months. Of the many Death with Dignity Act pros and cons projected, research has shown that the “cons” have not come to pass, while the “pros,” through careful patient protections, have been made available to millions.