Illinois State University hosted Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices, Monday night at the Alumni Center.
Coombs Lee's organization stands to make physician-assisted death a larger conversation among doctors, patients and legislators. She firmly believes that, "a better death is becoming integral to the idea of a ‘well-lived life.’” She discusses this topic extensively in her book "Finish Strong."
Physician-assisted death is the voluntary end to a patient’s life once their illness is deemed incurable. It is typically administered through an orally ingested liquid.
She first began by speaking about the current state of our cultures reaction to death.
“You raise the subject [of death] and people leave the room,” she said.
Coombs Lee understands how hard it may be to discuss death among loved ones, but she believes that how we want to die needs to become a regular conversation to have among families and doctors.
She often cited Oregon, a state where she played an integral role in legalizing physician-assisted death. As a point of proof of the success of physician-assisted death, she described how legalizing it has shifted the culture surrounding death and has become a normal conversation among patients and physicians.
She described Illinois’ current relationship between patients and doctors as “patient-centered care." She described this method of taking care of patients as harmful because it focuses on doing everything in the doctor’s power to keep a terminally ill patient alive.
She said that we need to shift to “patient-directed care” in order to give more power to the patients so they may feel have control, rather than just following procedures doctors recommend.
While Coombs Lee spoke, she addressed the crowd with affection and understanding. Many of individuals in the crowd were elderly and said they looked to her as a source of hope.
“Medicine is a conveyor belt. Once you are on it, it is very hard to stop it,” she addressed the crowd.