Paul Spiers, Ph.D., a forensic neuropsychologist and national advocate for compassionate, patient-directed care, died Sept. 11, 2013 at his Danvers, Mass., home. Spiers, born in Montreal in 1953, received his doctorate from Clark University and conducted research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and taught at Boston University. He was a paraplegic as a result of a 1994 horse riding accident.
The rights of patients were important to Spiers as a professional, but after his spinal cord injury, those rights became more critical. He served as chairman of the Compassion and Choices board of directors, where he focused on improving end-of-life care and limiting physician-assisted death to the terminally ill.
Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices, credits Spiers with advancing the issue. “We all owe him a great debt for his service to our organization. We wouldn’t be where we are today without his vision,” she says. “He will be warmly remembered and dearly missed.”
Michelle Hogle, a neuroscientist and freelance writer in Boston, says it’s important to put his work in context. “He did not just believe in patient-centered care, he believed in patient-directed care,” she notes. “While some of his work did focus on expanding end-of-life choices, he advocated for so much more than that. His vision of healthcare included expanding the health care choices available for all people regardless of physical ability or stage of life, but it also included increased access to resources for patients.”
Autonomy and dignity were the cornerstones of his legacy, she says. “His commitment to these principles made him a leader in a movement dedicated to improving patient rights and choices by expanding patient access to people and resources to guide them in making the best choices to maintain their quality of life.”
Jessica Grennan, national political director for Compassion and Choices, worked closely with Spiers. “What I loved about working with Paul was that macro level, the big politics. The numbers and stats are really important to look at, but he could also bring it back to the personal story,” she says.