PRESS RELEASE 2-18-14: Hastings Center Announces Journalists Bootcamp on Covering End-of-Life Care

Debates about when life ends and treatment decision-making are regularly in the news – most recently with the California teenager and the pregnant woman in Texas declared brain dead. To help journalists with their reporting, The Hastings Center will present special sessions on understanding and writing about end-of-life issues at the annual meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists in Denver on March 27. Registration is open to working journalists.

“Journalists are our nation’s first and best route to ensuring informed public discourse on this complex set of ethical, legal, and cultural issues,” says Mildred Z. Solomon, EdD, president of The Hastings Center. “Our bootcamp on end-of-life care will include national authorities on bioethics, law, and medicine to help journalist with their reporting.” The Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute, has been a leader in shaping the ethical and legal framework for medical decision-making and end-of-life care in the United States.

The bootcamp will consist of three one-hour sessions:

Separating fact from fiction: end-of-life decisions in the United States: What is the ethical and legal framework in the U.S. for treatment decision-making? Do patients have a legal right to “demand” what they want? How do forgoing treatment, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia differ in law, ethics, and practice? Speakers are Dr. Solomon and Alan Meisel, director, Center for Bioethics and Health Law, University of Pittsburgh, and co-author, The Right to Die: The Law of End-of-Life Decision-making

Spotting the gaps in evidence, ethics and practice: A growing body of research has established that many interventions and referral patterns for gravely ill and dying patients do not reflect best practices. Speakers will focus on inappropriate referrals of dying patients to dialysis and the harmful use of artificial nutrition and hydration for patients with severe dementia. Journalists will come away from this session better informed about the gaps between ethics, evidence, and practice and better skilled at identifying stories on these gaps. Speakers are Jean Kutner, MD, MSPH, University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Lewis Cohen, MD, Baystate Medical Center.

A journalists’ guide to clearer writing: “Giving up the fight.” “A good death.” This session will explore the common clichés and metaphors that can undermine solid reporting and affect the quality of conversation among patients, families, and health care professionals considering real choices. The recent brain death stories will be a case study. Speakers are Nancy Berlinger, PhD., Hastings Center research scholar and the lead author of The Hastings Center Guidelines for Decisions on Life-Sustaining Treatment and Care Near the End of Lifeand Dan Johnson, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute, Denver, and a winner of The Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Award in 2013, honoring physicians for exemplary care of patients near the end of life.

To register for the sessions, contact the Association of Health Care Journalists.

For more information, contact:
Susan Gilbert, public affairs and communications manager
The Hastings Center
845-424-4040 x244