It was late in the afternoon when Ellen Severoni, executive director of California Health Decisions--Orange County Project, surveyed the room full of delegates at the project's first Health Care Parliament.
Severoni was pleased.
"What people are telling me, overwhelmingly, is they're happy to be here, they feel they have had input and that it (the project) is important," said Severoni, a registered nurse, who helped launch the project.
The daylong parliament held Saturday on the Orange campus of Loyola Marymount University marked the culmination of the first year of activities for the Orange County project, a grass-roots effort to seek public opinion on ethical issues in health care.
"California Health Decisions is saying, 'You, the people of Orange County, can make decisions about the issues that impact upon you directly,' " said Noreen O'Brien, a delegate who teaches in the nursing program at Cal State Fullerton.
Added O'Brien's mother, Dorothy, another delegate from Fullerton: "I think it's an idea whose time has come and needs implementation now."
In the year since the project was launched, ordinary citizens have had the opportunity to voice their opinions--and offer their recommendations--on such thorny ethical questions as: Does everyone have the right to health care even if he can't afford it? And, is it appropriate in every case to use life-prolonging technology? Over an eight-month period beginning last October, more than 200 small group meetings and a dozen town hall meetings were held throughout the county.