Tag Archives: death

New tip sheet examines issues surrounding brain death

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: Indi Samarajiva via Flickr

Photo: Indi Samarajiva via Flickr

Are there different levels of death? Are you alive if you’re brain dead but on life support?

Many journalists and members of the public are unclear about the nuances of brain death. According to this new tip sheet from author and researcher Alan Cassels, this confusion directly affects issues such as organ donation rates.

Cassels notes that while a patient’s organs can be “kept alive” while awaiting transplantation, brain death is legally the same as cardiopulmonary death – death is death. It matters because the organ donor transplant list keeps growing. Continue reading

What is a successful death? It depends on who you ask

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

art for SuccessfulDeath_Blog_Aging_Seegert-7811851336_3d9fb5a179_z

Photo: Ted Van Pelt via Flickr

While the idea of hospice and palliative care are slowly becoming part of the national health conversation, many people still struggle when it comes to talking about end-of-life issues.

Just like we all want a “successful life,” we also want to have a “successful death.” But what exactly does that mean? As new research shows, the definition varies depending on the stakeholder. Continue reading

Understanding and covering the evolving landscape of the ‘good’ death

Eileen Beal

About Eileen Beal

Eileen Beal, M.A., has been covering health care and aging since the late 1990s. She's written several health-related books. including "Age Well!" with geriatrician Robert Palmer, and her work has appeared in Aging Today, Arthritis Today,WebMD and other publications.

road-to-cleveland-2Until the 1920s, most Americans died relatively quickly and at home, surrounded by things and people – including their minister, priest or rabbi – they knew and who knew them. And, because they died where they lived, and among those who cared for them, the fear, pain, relief and release that death brought was common knowledge.

Today, however, death and the dying process are a mystery to most Americans. Only rarely, and usually in a crisis situation, do we get a peek behind the curtain at the anger, fear, pain, guilt, yearning, etc., that dying people experience, whether they are being cared for in a health care facility or at home. Continue reading

Physician-assisted death becomes legal in California

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 5 signed California’s controversial End of Life Option Act, which permits physician-aided death for terminally ill patients. California becomes the fifth state in the nation to allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to certain patients seeking to end their lives.

The law, modeled after Oregon’s law, requires two doctors to agree that the person has six months or less to live and is mentally competent.

Until Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, announced he had signed the bill it was unclear where the governor stood on the issue. He released a brief statement outlining his moral dilemma, saying, “I do not know what I would do if I were dying and in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.” Continue reading

Investigative series on troubling death casts a wider net over hospice care

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

A well-known, prominent California physician. Allegations of a suspicious death. Family feuds. A recovering addict and possible affair. Elder abuse. A controversial investigation by the coroner.

Charles Piller

While it may sound like a made-for-TV movie or the latest John Grisham novel, this life-and-death true story took journalist Charles Piller more than 10 months to investigate. Not only did Piller track and verify conflicting accounts of Jerome Lackner’s final months, but he also had to somehow navigate privacy roadblocks thrown up by hospitals, providers, the hospice facility and lawyers.

In this fascinating “How I did it,” Piller describes his five-part Sacramento Bee investigative series that may raise as many questions as it answers. He explains his efforts to answer basic questions about the roles and responsibilities of caregivers, hospitals, and hospices, and how he had to unravel a web of finger pointing by family, ex-spouses, friends and health professionals.

Without seeming to take sides, how does a reporter sift through mounds of conflicting evidence to create an engaging and coherent narrative? How can you track down reluctant key players in such a saga? How do you separate fact from fiction when family members accuse caregivers of indifference, neglect – or worse? Read about how Piller did it when investigating the death of Dr. Jerome Lackner.

How the discussion on dying has changed over 40 years: A conversation with Nancy Berlinger

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

If you want a refresher on how far society has come on dealing with end-of-life care issues — and what issues are still to be resolved — then this retrospective article in the Feb 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine from experts at The Hastings Center is a great place to begin. It reviews the history of the end-of-life care movement in the U.S., takes a look at the integration of palliative care into health care delivery, discusses the still controversial “death with dignity” laws and ethical issues like removal of feeding and hydration tubes.

I recently spoke with co-author Nancy Berlinger, Ph.D., a research scholar at Hastings, about how the conversation on death and dying has changed over four decades. Continue reading