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 …

Study: Suffering Increasing at the End of Life

It’s been more than 15 years since the Institute of Medicine released its seminal 1997 report detailing the suffering many Americans experience at the end of life and offering sweeping recommendations on how to improve care. So has dying in America gotten any less painful? Despite efforts to build hospice and palliative-care programs across the country, the answer seems to be a resounding no. The number of Americans experiencing pain in the last year of life actually increased by nearly …

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 …

Daughter Charged With Assisted Suicide Is Exonerated

It’s difficult to know what to do for a loved one in the end stages of a terminal illness. Certainly, palliative care is often very effective, and it’s the preferred approach for almost everyone who is dying in pain. But for some, palliative care isn’t enough. Four states – Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – allow a terminally ill patient to choose to end his life and ask for assistance in doing so. There’s no doubt that assisted suicide is …

What Does the New End-of-Life Study Mean?

When it comes to end-of-life medical decisions, Americans are divided over what they think is right: to pull out all the stops and try everything regardless of the situation, or discontinue treatment and allow someone to die if he or she chooses. A newly released survey by the Pew Research Center asked nearly 2,000 adults by telephone to weigh in on their beliefs, including the hot-button issue of physician-assisted suicide. The results: 66 percent think a patient should be allowed …

A TED Talk on Preparing for the Inevitable

When the annual Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference began in 1984, the Los Angeles Times called it “an obscure gathering of engineers, theorists and artists.” But in the nearly three decades since then, TED has morphed into a series of mind-expanding showcases staged in several countries that attract scores of celebrity visionaries, ranging from physicist Steven Hawking and neurologist Oliver Sacks to former President Bill Clinton and rock stars Bono and Peter Gabriel. Better yet, the nonprofit Sapling Foundation, which stages the …