In 2008, a cycling accident left bioethicist Margaret Battin's husband quadriplegic and dependent on life support technology. The accident forced Battin, a right-to-die advocate, to reflect on the positions she's taken in the past and decide whether she still believes in them.
Counselor Judith Schwarz says that for terminally ill patients who are suffering, prolonging death can seem like a worse fate than death itself. Schwarz is a patient supporter with the nonprofit organization Compassion & Choices
Technology can prolong the lives of the terminal ill -- but at what cost? Surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande examines the difficulties for medical professional and families who must decide when to stop medical intervention and focus on improving a patient's last days.
Journalist Stephen Kiernan's new book is Last Rights: Rescuing the End of Life from the Medical System. Kiernan writes that doctors are not well-trained in end of life procedures, and that half of those who die in hospitals suffer untreated pain, while those in nursing homes risk abuse and personal bankruptcy. Based in New England, Kiernan has written for the Boston Globe, the Burlington Free Press and other publications. He received the George Polk Award for medical reporting and the Joseph Breckner Center's Freedom of Information Award.
Five years ago, Oregon voters passed into law the Death with Dignity Act, legalizing physician-assisted suicide. We talk with oncologist Peter Rasmussen of Salem, Ore., who has prescribed lethal doses of medication for dying patients.
Dr. Jerome Groopman. Since the discovery of AIDS, he's treated patients and done extensive cancer and AIDS research. He's written a book titled "The Measure of Our Days: New Beginnings at Life's End" (Viking). It borrows stories from some of his patients in Boston and aims to give support, hope, and comfort to those suffering with life threatening illness. Dr. Groopman is Chief of Experimental Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and is also a professor of medicine at Harvard.
All Things Considered senior producer Sean Collins will preview the upcoming yearlong NPR series on death and dying. The series will begin airing on Monday November 3rd. The series of reports is called "The End of Life: Exploring Death in America."
Byock talks about his new book "Dying Well: The Prospect of Growth at the End of Life." He is President of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and a prominent spokesman for the hospice industry. His book explores how the end of life, whether a person is suffering pain or not, can be an opportunity for deepened spiritual growth and reconciliation with others.
Medical ethicist Daniel Callahan. His new book is "The Troubled Dream of Life: Living with Mortality." (Simon & Schuster). In it he looks at how our society views death: If death is a "part of life," why do we have such trouble accepting it? And how do our attitudes about death affect medical and social policy?
Betsy Lieberman, Executive Director of AIDS Housing of Washington which has built the country's first nursing home designed for people dying of AIDS. It's called the Bailey-Boushay House. The House also offers adult day-care services and activities for people with AIDS. The House has been in operation for a little over a year now. Since then more than 130 people have died there. A new book about the project has been published, "Breaking New Ground: Developing Innovative AIDS Care Residences." (published by AIDS Housing of Washington, Original Trade Paperback).