Barbara Coombs Lee: End of Life, with Compassion and Choice

by Tane Danger, Director, Westminster Town Hall Forum

Few topics are more universal and simultaneously more ethically complex than how we approach end of life. Death and dying invites us each to grapple with our own faith, identity, and values. At the same time, it raises profound questions about our relationship with the healthcare system and our agency as patients and human beings.

With all that in mind, we are humbled and excited to welcome Barbara Coombs Lee to the Forum this March. For more than 25 years, Barbara Coombs Lee has been organizing and advocating for everyone to have more choices and better care at the end of their lives. She is president emerita/senior adviser of Compassion & Choices, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit focused on those issues.

Before becoming an advocate, Lee spent a quarter century as a nurse and physician’s assistant, often at the bedside of terminally-ill patients. That experience drove her to co-author the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and serve as spokesperson through two statewide campaigns to get it passed. Oregon approved the measure in 2008, making it only the second state to permit aid in dying. She kept working, including defending legal challenges against aid in dying in Montana, and helping pass the California End of Life Option Act in 2015.

In her most recent book, Finish Strong: Putting YOUR Priorities First at Life’s End, Lee offers a guide for a more patient-driven healthcare system, particularly at end of life. Barbara Coombs Lee speaks at the Westminster Town Hall Forum with moderator Tim Hart-Andersen on Tuesday, March 23, at noon. Plan to join us and listen on Minnesota Public Radio, WestminsterForum.org, or the Forum’s Facebook page.