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Barbara Coombs Lee
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Barbara Coombs Lee is President of Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding and protecting the rights of the terminally ill. She practiced as a nurse and physician assistant for 25 years before beginning a career in law and health policy. Since then she has devoted her professional life to individual choice and empowerment in healthcare. As a private attorney, as counsel to the Oregon State Senate, as a managed-care executive and finally as Chief Petitioner for Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, she has championed initiatives that enable individuals to consider a full range of choices and be full participants in their healthcare decisions.

Entries by Barbara Coombs Lee

The Moral Imperative in End-of-Life Choice Looks Different Now

(0) Comments | Posted July 18, 2014 | 6:55 PM

For those of us grounded in end-of-life care and choice, the earth shook this week. Did you feel it? The shaking hasn't stopped, but the religious foundation from which aid-in-dying opponents build their strength cracked.

Tomorrow, Britain's House of Lords will debate a bill to authorize assisted dying as...

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Dedicated to a Cause

(0) Comments | Posted March 27, 2013 | 11:21 AM

Last Wednesday, March 20, the Connecticut Assembly's Public Health Committee began its consideration of a bill modeled after Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. What a day! In my 22 years of legislative work, this hearing was the most grueling -- and the most inspiring -- I have ever witnessed. Compassion...

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Intense Treatment in the Last Month of Life Is Rising

(3) Comments | Posted March 5, 2013 | 2:12 PM

One Question Can Stop End-of-Life Torture

Several weeks ago, Brown University's Dr. Joan Teno and her Dartmouth colleagues published a study on end-of-life care in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They looked at the records of almost 850,000 Medicare beneficiaries who died between 2000-2009 and first...

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Oh, Freedom

(0) Comments | Posted February 27, 2013 | 8:39 AM

Michael Morgan, founder and Executive Director of the African American Music Foundation, visited my church this week to celebrate Black History Month. During the morning service. his thrilling bass voice highlighted an inspiring memorial to Paul Robeson. That afternoon he delivered a recital and lecture on...

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Assisted Suicide Is a Crime; Aid in Dying Is Humane

(1) Comments | Posted January 25, 2013 | 11:07 AM

Last week the government of Quebec announced plans to recognize aid in dying as a legal and protected medical practice in the province. They promise a new law by this summer.

A tremendously exciting announcement, it reveals a seismic shift in the thinking of both medical and political...

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Vote Like Your Future Depends on It

(0) Comments | Posted October 31, 2012 | 5:20 PM

This election season is extracting an enormous toll from candidates and citizens alike.

Pressure is always intense in a presidential year, but this year is different. The airwaves and Internet hammer away with news of poll after poll, minute campaign details and endless tit for tat. The presidential race, Senate...

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Uninformed Consent, Unshared Decision-Making in the ICU

(2) Comments | Posted September 10, 2012 | 1:26 PM

Imagine yourself the son or daughter of a grievously-ill octogenarian. Your mom or dad suffered a catastrophic event and has been in an ICU, barely conscious, for two weeks. You understand organs are shutting down, but you struggle to understand the medical jargon or the purpose of tubes and machines...

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The Demise of the Catholic Hospital Brand

(0) Comments | Posted June 26, 2012 | 4:40 PM

It used to be Americans viewed Catholic hospitals and health care systems with universal respect and trust. They had no reason to do otherwise.

Founded in the 19th century by orders of nuns with a mission to care for the poor, Catholic hospitals grew and thrived in modern industrial medicine....

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Should Doctors Learn to Grieve?

(1) Comments | Posted May 31, 2012 | 4:42 PM

Why is it so difficult for doctors to confront the truth when a patient is dying and almost impossible for most to talk about it openly with the patient and loved ones?

Last week I shared a hunch. A journalist asked me the question, "Why do doctors find these conversations...

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The Religious Right's Assault on Palliative Care

(7) Comments | Posted May 30, 2012 | 2:15 PM

Anti-choice forces are taking aim at end-of-life care. They're after people at the end of a long decline who exercise their right to stop life-prolonging technology or treatment. Their tactic is to tie the hands of doctors attending those patients, when palliative treatment might ease the patient's chosen death....

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When Wishes Are Fishes

(0) Comments | Posted April 23, 2012 | 4:14 PM

How do we get doctors to honor our wishes at the end of life? Most recommend preparing an advance directive, and I'm no exception. These documents are not infallible, but they are the best things we've got going for us when we can't speak for ourselves.

However, one...

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Vigilantes in Scrubs

(0) Comments | Posted April 2, 2012 | 10:19 AM

A study published this month paints a troubling picture. Imagine palliative care doctors, working to deliver the best possible comfort care to their patients. Yet even as they meet the recognized best practices of their profession, their colleagues are judging their covert intentions and moral fiber.

Over half of the...

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Peter Goodwin, Pioneer for Human Liberty

(0) Comments | Posted March 22, 2012 | 3:06 PM

Eighteen years ago, Dr. Peter Goodwin led the fight to grant Oregonians the right to end-of-life choice. I was honored to work alongside Peter as a co-campaigner and call him a friend. Both as a physician and an advocate, he promoted honesty in facing death. This month he confronted his...

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Two Movements Approach the Tipping Point

(10) Comments | Posted March 20, 2012 | 12:04 PM

After years of gains and setbacks, the national movement for same-sex marriage is enjoying a period of remarkable success. Massachusetts and Connecticut became first adopters in 2004 and 2005 and that came after twenty years of advocacy. Turmoil followed, especially in California. But in 2009 three states (Iowa, Vermont,...

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United, as Women and for Women

(0) Comments | Posted March 12, 2012 | 10:00 AM

March 8th was the 101st annual International Women's Day. In some countries this Day holds the same stature as Mother's Day and celebrates women's economic, political and social achievements. More or less concurrently, proposals landed in Congress and in states around the nation to excuse insurance plans and religious...

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Bishops Step Over the Line

(3) Comments | Posted February 24, 2012 | 3:12 PM

Over and over we see the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops confuse the right to exercise their religion with a right to impose their religion on Americans who don't share it. This is not a subtle difference.

And, as Bill Moyers points out in the context of their...

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The Schiavo Case Seven Years Later

(5) Comments | Posted February 14, 2012 | 5:25 PM

New Messaging From Politicians

Sometimes progress toward human dignity seems agonizingly slow, especially affirming the role of choice at the end of life. So it's heartening when evidence of seismic change shows up. Last week's presidential debate lifted our hearts for this reason.

Contenders for the Republican nomination were...

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Do Doctors Die Like the Rest of Us?

(3) Comments | Posted January 24, 2012 | 11:38 AM

In November, Dr. Ken Murray published a blog on Zocalo Public Square called "How Doctors Die." It's been reverberating through the Web ever since, prompting a continuous stream of comments and inspiring others to offer their own essays and input.

What struck a chord was the assertion that doctors...

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Good News From Kentucky!

(0) Comments | Posted January 12, 2012 | 3:06 PM

The year 2011 closed with good news out of Kentucky. On Friday Governor Steve Beshear refused to approve a Louisville hospital merger that threatened patient choice. Compassion & Choices, MergerWatch, the National Women's Law Center and other national advocacy organizations joined local activists to raise constitutional and public...

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A Dog's Gentle Death

(16) Comments | Posted January 6, 2012 | 7:13 PM

Our family will always remember this holiday season as the time Sugar died. Sugar was a mixed breed, mostly lab/border-collie type. She exhibited the best character traits of every gene she carried and seemed to bear none of any breed's drawbacks. She was a real credit to her species.


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