June 21, 2024

‘Big Ideas’ conversations begin with a talk on end-of-life care

big ideas
Dwight Wilson, administrator of Celia's Home in Medford, and Dr. Elizabeth Harmon, palliative care expert at Asante Cancer Center, will take part in a discussion of end-of-life care on Sept. 5 at the Ashland Library.
August 31, 2023

Series of talks starting Tuesday at Ashland Library will take on such issues as city schools, affordable housing and Black empowerment

By Barbara Cervone

How we want to die is one of the most important and costly conversations Americans aren’t having, two local experts in “palliative care” — specialized medical care for people living with serious illness — will tell you.

Consider these facts.

Ninety percent of people think it is important to talk about end-of-life wishes with their loved ones, but only 27% have done so, according to a national 2021 study.

One in five respondents to a 2018 survey by the Conversation Project, which works to promote greater discussion of end-of-life-care, said they’ve avoided the subject out of worry about upsetting their loved ones.

A sizable majority of people say they want to die at home, but 60% die in hospitals or institutions.

“While planning your final days is never easy, we’re trying to think of this conversation as a gift to yourself, to your family, and those around you,” Dwight Wilson, administrator of Celia’s House in Medford, recently told Jefferson Public Radio.

From 4 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, Wilson, along with Asante Cancer Center’s Dr. Elizabeth Harmon — a passionate local expert in palliative care — will share their experiences working with patients and their families at a free public forum sponsored by the Ashland branch of the American Association of University Women, in collaboration with Jackson County Library Services. The forum will take place at the Ashland Public Library.

“New Approaches to End-of-Life Care” will be the first of six public discussions in the monthly “Big Ideas” series, featuring prominent local experts speaking on relevant and timely issues affecting our community.

Started in 2022, Ashland’s “Big Ideas” program is part of a movement in communities nationwide to support public discussions on challenging topics, such as environmental sustainability, affordable housing, racial justice and public education.

“The sole goal of ‘Big Ideas’ is to spark informed and meaningful conversations,” said program coordinator Marilyn Hawkins of AAUW. “And that fits perfectly with Ashland’s long-standing commitment to vital public dialogue.”

Upcoming conversations include:

Oct. 3: “The Future of Ashland Schools”

Erika Bare, assistant superintendent, Ashland Public Schools
Eva Skuratowicz, Ashland School Board, director, Position 3

Nov. 7: “The 21st Century Evolution of Criminal Justice in Oregon”

Lorenzo Mejia, judge, Jackson County Circuit Court (retired)

Jan. 2: “Our Affordable Housing Challenge”

Rep. Pam Marsh, Oregon House of Representatives, District 5
Brandon Goldman, community development director, City of Ashland

Feb. 6: “Get to Know BASE (Black Alliance & Social Empowerment)”

Sabrina Prud’homme, BASE board president and Police Liaison Committee member

March 5: “The Power of Public Art”

Ken Engelund, chair, Ashland Public Arts Advisory Committee

All discussions, open to anyone who is curious, take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on the first Tuesdays of the month at the Ashland Library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

For more information, contact AAUW “Big Ideas” coordinator Marilyn Hawkins, 541-708-6697,; or Ellie Anderson, Ashland Library, 541-774-6896,

Barbara Cervone moved to the Rogue Valley five years ago after 50 years in the urban Northeast. She spent her professional career championing public schools that serve all students well. A passionate writer, she has Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Education degrees from Harvard University.

Sept. 3: Corrected Marilyn Hawkins email address.

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