Rachel Ariella Butler, MHA, MPH

By day, I’m a researcher who studies how health services are provided and used during serious illness and at the end of life. When I first meet people, an overwhelming number of these interactions end with this stranger and me having a deep, human conversation about how the death of someone they’ve loved has impacted them (I promise, all I do is tell them one sentence about what I do!). Every person has a story, a story that is aching to be told, that jumps with excitement at the chance to be heard by another human who has created space to receive it. These human connections are at the heart of why I do what I do.

My interest in end-of-life care stems from growing up in a family, community, and society that shied away from thinking or talking about death. This fostered a great deal of my own death anxiety, and the only way I could begin to conquer that fear was to get as much exposure to the thing I feared most. I began working in research with real individuals and their families who faced advanced illness, and then I began volunteering with hospice.

As a death doula, I focus on helping individuals and their families plan for the end-of-life, including things like:

  • Thinking about and documenting what kinds of life-sustaining treatments you may or may not want if you were ever unable to make your own medical decisions

  • Preparing you for what dying might look like

  • Assisting with planning for your “good” death (sights, sounds, smells, touch, company, rituals, etc.)

  • Offering support in advance of death, during the dying process, and immediately after death

  • Helping to minimize the burden of that so-called “business of death” (contacting funeral homes & family members, creating a plan for the legal odds and ends)

In addition to being a founding member of Pittsburgh Community Deathcare, I am a co-organizer and facilitator for Death Cafe Pittsburgh, a hospice and grief support volunteer, a member of the Coalition for Quality at the End of Life (CQEL), and a member of the New Community Chevra Kadisha. I earned two master’s degrees in health administration and public health, and I’m currently pursuing a PhD in health services research and policy. In 2017, I completed the Jewish Healthcare Foundation's Fellowship on Death and Dying. I also completed the Respecting Choices Last StepsⓇ Advance Care Planning Facilitator training in 2014 and am seeking additional training in advance care planning facilitation for earlier stages of illness.

I live in the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh with my wife (Lauren), and our blue heeler (Moe), snuggly Siamese (Simon), and dainty domestic medium hair diva (Eliza). I cover locations within 20 miles of the 15217 zip code. I look forward to getting to know you!

Email: rariellab@gmail.com