Stories at and of the heart
"The messaging always involves storytelling," MacIntyre notes, largely because personal stories are the best way to connect with potential supporters, all of whom have faced, or might face, end-of-life dilemmas.
For example, in the successful Montana campaign, C&C integrated personal end-of-life stories into all of its direct-mail appeals, advertisements and all other actions. The first element of the campaign, "Join Steve," reiterated the story of Steve Johnson, a Marine veteran suffering from terminal brain cancer whose plight prompted the Supreme Court ruling, in all of its channels — from print ads and direct mail to Web pages and social media.
"Everyone you talk to can tell you a story about somebody they know whose condition is relevant to our mission," MacIntyre says. "People become involved in what we're doing because we've connected to them by sharing end-of-life stories that are personal but involve universal emotions."
MacIntyre could fill a book with personal end-of-life stories he witnessed as a young gay man living in New York City in the 1980s, during the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He remembers patients on gurneys, asking people to kill them because they couldn't get any effective treatment to relieve their suffering.
"I went to a funeral a week," he says. "The way I saw people die was horrific, and I know many people across the country are still dying that way, often elderly people who ought to be receiving better care."
Throughout his career, MacIntyre has helped build nonprofit civil-rights organizations and advocated for social change. It's no accident he now works and plans for an organization whose mission includes making sure people know about and understand end-of-life options. It's a job that involves consultation with clients and their families, and persistent advocacy. The rewards include playing a role in actions that have led to the Montana Supreme court ruling, and to the Death with Dignity Act in Oregon, which enables a terminally ill person to acquire a prescription for life-ending medication and thereby control his or her own time of death.