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Byock, Fisher Featured in PBS Film on End-of-Life Care, Planning

June 30, 2011
Lebanon, NH

Drs. Fisher and Byock

Drs. Elliott Fisher and Ira Byock

Dartmouth physician-researchers Ira Byock, MD, and Elliott Fisher, MD, MPH, are among the featured experts in a new documentary about end-of-life issues that public television stations are broadcasting around the United States.

New Hampshire Public Television will screen Consider the Conversation: A Documentary on a Taboo Subject on its NH Explore service on Thursday, July 7 (8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.) and on Friday, July 8 (1 p.m.). NH Explore is available to subscribers to the Comcast cable service.

Consider the Conversation evolved from the experiences of two Wisconsin men with losing loved ones and clients. Mike Bernhagen, director of community engagement and care partner relations at a hospice, joined forces in early 2009 with teacher and filmmaker Terry Kaldhusdal, with the aim of shedding light on how 21st-century Americans struggle to communicate about and prepare for the end of their lives. The film features interviews with terminally-ill patients, their families, their medical practitioners, and with a wide range of experts on medical, spiritual, legal, and social-service issues surrounding when and how to die.

"Through a series of compelling interviews and stories, Consider the Conversation explores people's fears and hopes as they live with serious illness - and offers an expanded view of how we can better care for one another and live fully through the end of life," says Byock, director of palliative care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) and chair of palliative medicine at Dartmouth Medical School (DMS). "The film is evidence that American society is finally ready to consider how mortality affects all of our lives. In doing so, as a culture, we can begin to grow the rest of the way up."

The CBS News magazine show "60 Minutes" featured Byock and Fisher in a segment about the costs of extending the lives of terminally-ill patients. Byock is the author of Dying Well and a sought-after speaker for medical and geriatric professionals and support groups.

Fisher is director of the Center for Population Health at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (TDI) and the James W. Squires Professor of Medicine and Community and Family Medicine at DMS. His research focuses on understanding the underlying causes of marked variations in spending and quality within the US healthcare system, and on the development of new policy and payment approaches that can improve care while lowering costs.

"We have a tremendous opportunity to improve care at the end of life, and it's not about rationing - it's about redesigning care so that it meets our needs," Fisher says. "This film makes clear just how important communication and conversation are to achieving that aim."

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For more information contact David Corriveau at (603) 653-1978.

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