Who Will Tend Your Memory on Facebook?

A couple of years ago at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, I met a guy in a superhero costume promoting his start-up, which he cheekily called Dead Social. His company’s mission statement: “Prepare for a Digital Death and Build Your Digital Legacy.” Start-up founder James Norris was onto something then, and Facebook this week joined digital giants Google and Apple in acknowledging that questions of what to do with your digital persona after death now loom large …

How to Talk About Death … and Life

Many Americans, it seems, have a hard time talking about death. Even doctors struggle to deal with the mortality of patients who they know aren’t going to make it. That’s the focus of Being Mortal: Conversations of Death and Dying, Atul Gawande’s adaptation of his bestselling book to a Frontline segment that begins airing Feb. 10 on PBS platforms. A surgeon and writer, Gawande chalks up doctors’ fears to their sense of professional competence. In gaining experience, “Among the most …

A Caregiver’s Precious Last Gift From Her Big Sister

She carried me when I was tired. She protected me when other kids were picking on me. She introduced me to new experiences and music, from dancing to the Beatles in 1964 in our West Lafayette, Ind., living room to my first Grateful Dead concert in 1968 — where she lifted me to the stage so I could dance with the band — to the music of Keith Jarrett in 1982. When I entered those tumultuous teenage and young adult years …

When Is ‘No Treatment’ the Best Treatment?

The swift, lethal nature of brain cancer — and the terrible decisions it forces families to face — has been in the news recently, with three of its victims forcing us to think about choices we hope we never have to make. There was, of course, the well-publicized death of Brittany Maynard, 29, diagnosed with the most common and deadly form of brain cancer — glioblastoma. Doctors don’t know what causes these insidious growths, according to the National Brain Tumor …

Being There to Say the Final Goodbye

Two years ago this month, I sat beside my Pop Pop as he died. I can’t help but cry as I type that, but this isn’t a sad story. Pop Pop was 96 years old. He was born in 1916. By Sept. 13, 2012, the day he passed, he’d been my mom’s dad for almost exactly 60 years. He’d been my grandfather for 30. Running the numbers didn’t comfort me that day, though. It didn’t compute. My friend was taking …

Report: Dying in America Harder Than It Has to Be

By Jenny Gold, Kaiser Health News Staff Writer It is time for conversations about death to become a part of life. That is one of the themes of a 500-page report, titled “Dying in America,” released Sept. 17 by the Institute of Medicine. The report suggests that the first end-of-life conversation could coincide with a cherished American milestone: getting a driver’s license at 16, the first time a person weighs what it means to be an organ donor. Follow-up conversations …