OPINION: Dolores Huerta continues her fight for end-of-life care options

As a child, I watched my father fight against injustice, inequality, and oppression. At the protests was a young woman named Dolores Huerta and a banner with the phrase SI SE PUEDE, words that not only strengthened farmworkers in California, but also fueled a labor rights movement that changed the course of United States history. Joined.

More than 50 years have passed since this historic victory. Yet our people continue to face end-of-life disparities, a cause that the legendary civil rights activist is passionate about and someone I am honored to partner with.

For the past seven years, Dolores Huerta has been one of the strongest leaders in advancing Compassion & Choices’ mission, which is to improve and expand end-of-life health care options. The disproportionate deaths and health care disparities among Latinos during the height of the pandemic have made this even more urgent for Dolores Huerta.

“This is a very personal question, because I saw my mother die in agony from breast cancer. I know firsthand the desperate need to expand end-of-life care options,” said Dolores Huerta in an editorial published in Los Angeles and New York.

“One of my most rewarding experiences has been advocating for terminally ill Latinos who suffer disproportionately from disparities in care and for people to die peacefully, without unnecessary pain,” added Dolores Huerta.

Dolores Huerta’s support was instrumental in passing California’s End of Life Option Act in 2015, and the Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act in the state of New Mexico. These laws give terminally ill adults who are of sound mind and have a life expectancy of six months or less, the option of requesting a prescription for a self-ingested medication, in order to end peacefully with unbearable suffering.

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Dolores Huerta not only supported compassionate law measures with editorials and videos recorded in English and Spanish on her mother’s painful death, but also joined Compassion & Choices at press conferences, multi-state campaigns, mobilizations and rallies with lawmakers who were reluctant to support aid-in-dying measures, especially Catholic and Latino lawmakers.

Dolores Huerta’s support was instrumental in passing SB 380, legislation that would improve access to California’s current medical aid in dying law, which has been in place for the last six years. With the improvement to the law, the minimum waiting period of 15 days between the two requests for medical assistance in dying was reduced to 48 hours. The improved law went into effect earlier this year.

Compassion & Choices will honor Dolores Huerta in Sacramento next week with the inaugural Dolores Huerta Mission and Vision Award, for her dedication to improving health care, expanding end-of-life options, and for her commitment to Latinos suffering terminal illnesses in the United States. Dolores Huerta will also be recognized for her commitment to a vision of a diverse, equitable and inclusive movement.

a good collaboration

I met Dolores in 2015. I saw her again in 2019 when she met with legislators at the New Mexico Capitol to rally support for medical aid in dying, a measure that was signed into law in 2021.

Working with Dolores at the Compassion & Choices Latino Leadership Council has been an incredible experience for this immigrant from Ciudad Juárez on the border with El Paso, Texas, whose books at New Mexico State University included entire chapters on this living legend.

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Dolores Huerta continues to be a force at 92 years old and not even a global pandemic has stopped the legendary activist from continuing to be a powerful voice for Latinos, at the end of their lives.

María Otero is an immigrant, community leader, public health educator, grassroots activist, and Director of Latino Engagement for Compassion & Choices.