Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dignity and Choices Symposium: Starting to Unpack.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I was in Washington DC to attend the first Dignity & Choices Symposium, sponsored by Compassion & Choices, the nation's largest aid in dying and end of life care advocacy organization.

What I came away with - insights, education, materials, new acquaintances and understandings, topics for research, and project ideas - is impossible to capture in one post. So throughout the day (and beyond) I will be unpacking my experiences from the symposium, session by session, in posts interspersed with my usual blogging. (Next week, when I attend the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Conference in Scranton to hear Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo, Phill Kline, former AG of Kansas, and Dr. David Prentice, of the Family Research Council speak, I hope to do the same thing.)

But to quickly summarize my overall impressions from DC:

*For a first symposium, the event was surprisingly well-organized and the speakers were of a particularly high caliber of ability to speak to aid in dying and surrounding issues

*All age groups were represented; the group, both attendees and speakers, was racially diverse; from C&C board members to hospice workers, from journalists to lawyers, from ethicists to pastors, from women's group members to advocates for the elderly, the group, though lacking statical depth, possessed breadth of occupation and interest in end of life issues

*For a symposium focused on how to compassionately end life, attendees were surprisingly positive, cheerful, life-loving, and affirming - much to any detractor's chagrin. Don't laugh at this comment; I anticipated some sort of over-exuberant political correctness - the issue demands sensitivity and maturity that uncountable societal entities, including the media at large, churches, our government and social service organizations, all fail to muster with consistency - and some overly-dramatic, maudlin reverence for death or those who face it that would be more acceptable than an obituary section of the newspaper but less so than a Hallmark card. The tone of the event was spot on: professional, action-oriented, information-filled and accessible.

Expect much more from me on the Dignity & Choices Symposium as the day and week carry on.

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