Life Matters Media
Start the most difficult conversation American isn’t having- the conversation about our end of life preferences

Life Matters Media Participates In “Great Challenges”: End of Life Care

Life Matters Media is proud to participate in the TEDMED “Great Challenges” program, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. End of life care has been designated as one of the twenty “Great Challenges” in health and medicine. The program’s mission is not to solve the problems surrounding end of life care, but to provide unbiased, inclusive viewpoints of the challenges from a multidisciplinary perspective.

At the conclusion of TEDMED 2013, Life Matters Media was pleased to take part in “Great Challenges Day,” held at George Washington University, in which participants explored how storytelling and narrative framework can be used to gain a deeper understanding of end of life care. Storytelling is at the core of what our organization aims to do as we prepare to launch our full digital platform in the coming weeks, and the “Great Challenges” program shares our belief that greater understanding in health care and decision making can stem from sharing true narratives- not data.

Below is the “Discovery Doodle” by graphic recorder Leah Silverman, depicting some of the challenges offered by program participants in coming to grips with end of life care.

"Discovery doodle"
“Discovery Doodle”

Modern medicine has extended the life expectancy of many terminally ill Americans, but in turn, that prolongation of life can result in more intensive care and cost.  In 2010, Medicare paid $55 billion for physician and hospital bills during the last two months of patient’s lives. Going forward in its work, the “Great Challenges” program believes that quality end of life care requires balancing doctor, family and patient input, and that making end of life decisions can relieve physical and emotional tolls on patients and their loved ones. Life Matters Media shares this belief.

Here are some of the contributing factors that make end of life care such a pervasive medical and social problem, as offered by “Great Challenges” team members:

-Deaths usually occur in hospitals or special care units, often with only medical personnel in attendance. Unfamiliarity with death seems to exaggerate fear of it. (Barbara Coombs Lee, Compassion and Choices)

-The Scarlett O’Hara Syndrome, or “I can’t think about this today; I will think about it tomorrow.” Many find it culturally inappropriate to go about advance planning or advanced health care directives, and others find it too emotionally difficult. (Bruce Jennings, Center for Humans and Nature)

-Linking end of life care with right to life movements are often erroneously linked. The term “death panels” often elicits an inaccurate and emotionally charged portrayal of the process involved in helping people die naturally and with comfort and dignity. (Jennie Chin Hansen, American Geriatrics Society)

-There is a lack of accountability in our health care system, with most measures task-based rather than patient-centered. There are no adequate quality measures to examine care of the dying (Joan Teno, Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research)

For more on the “Great Challenges”: