By Tim Ryan

Last week, the Rotary Club of Newport News had the honor of hosting Dawn Kinard, an esteemed advocate from Compassion and Choices—a name that resonates with dignity and informed choice at life’s end. With a compassionate heart and an unwavering commitment to community service, Dawn brought forth insights that are crucial for anyone navigating the delicate terrain of end-of-life decisions.

End-of-Life Planning: A Vital Conversation

In a world where discussions of mortality are often shrouded in discomfort, Dawn emphasized the critical importance of end-of-life planning. With a clear and empathetic tone, she outlined how every adult over eighteen should have a say in their final journey, ensuring their beliefs and values are respected. Dawn shared that in Virginia, like in many places, there is a pressing need to keep such plans up-to-date and communicate them clearly to loved ones and healthcare providers.

Finishing Strong: The Ultimate Act of Agency

Dawn introduced us to the concept of “finishing strong,” a powerful narrative that redefines the end-of-life experience as an act of personal strength and affirmation. By sharing personal stories and free tools for planning, she provided a roadmap for those wishing to take charge of their final chapter.

Hospice vs. Palliative Care: Understanding the Difference

The difference between hospice and palliative care was also a focal point of Dawn’s talk. She demystified these terms, explaining that both are designed to provide comfort but differ in timing and the nature of the care given. Her detailed explanation illuminated the options available, allowing individuals to make informed choices.

Demystifying Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD)

Perhaps the most profound moment was Dawn’s clarification of MAiD—a subject often misunderstood. She delineated what medical aid in dying is and, importantly, what it is not, distancing the practice from misconceptions of euthanasia or suicide. Dawn’s narrative was an eye-opener, revealing that while 70% of Virginians support MAiD, many are unaware of its legislative history in the state.

A Call to Action: Become an Informed Volunteer

Beyond just imparting knowledge, Dawn extended an invitation to become a volunteer, joining the ranks of those who advocate for dignity and choice at life’s end. She urged us to stay informed and lend our voices to a cause that touches all of us in the most profound way.

The Journey Beyond

Dawn Kinard’s work with Compassion and Choices reflects a tapestry of life enriched by her passions—from aviation to art and advocacy. Her journey with the organization is a testament to the power of informed choice and the difference one dedicated individual can make in the lives of many.

As members of the Rotary Club of Newport News and the larger community, we were inspired to take these lessons to heart, ensuring that every voice is heard and every choice is respected when it matters most.