End-of-life discussion at First Unitarian

By Jennet Posey
Herald Intern

An end-of-life discussion hosted by Compassion and Choices will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2, at First Unitarian Church, 5650 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Compassion and Choices is a non-profit offering consultation for people with terminal diseases facing the end of their life. Bess Shenkier, coordinator for the group’s Chicago chapter, will be speaking at the event about end-of-life issues and the choices that can be made. 

“I just see how important it is for people to talk about these issues and to have someone advocate for them in term s of what it is that they want at the end of life,” Shenkier said. 

Shenkier, who spent years as a hospice volunteer and is also an attorney, says people can benefit personally from learning about the resources available at the end of life.

“There is a lot of complexity and the individual has to make a choice,” Shenkier said.

Barbara Harrison, a volunteer at Compassion and Choices and member of First Unitarian Church, is organizing the event.  She said there should be resources and dignity for people in the final stages of life. “We have so much care for the early parts of our lives and we just don’t want to go off and die in a corner somewhere,” Harrison said.

According to Harrison, an individual has to be in good enough emotional and psychological health in order to make rational decisions about the end of life.

“You can’t just say ‘Oh I don’t want to live anymore so help me die.’ That’s not it.”

Compassion and Choices is advocating for legislation that supports end-of-life options.  Currently, only five states have death-with-dignity laws: Oregon, Vermont, Montana, Washington and, as of in January of 2014, New Mexico.

Shenkier believes there is much work ahead for organizations like Compassion and Choices. “Even though the issue is getting a little bit more public light, we’ve got a really long way to go.”

For more information about the event, contact First Unitarian Church by calling 773-324-4100.