In his book “Being Mortal,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Professor Atul Gawande explored how conversations between patients and doctors can make end-of-life care more meaningful. In an effort to bring this message to a broader audience, the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) and the John and Wauna Harman Foundation organized a series of community screenings of the Frontline documentary based on the book. Held in 39 communities around California, these events reached a higher percentage of viewers from communities of color than the documentary did when it aired on public television last year. In a post-screening email survey, 81% of respondents said that they had spoken to someone about their wishes around end-of-life care after viewing the documentary.
Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and executive director of Ariadne Labs, told CHCF that he is “incredibly gratified” by hearing the stories of people who have applied “Being Mortal” to their own lives. In an interview published online February 8, 2016, he said, “They are feeling that they can have these conversations that defined what mattered most to them or to their family — and in many cases, translated into the doctor’s office, where they can advocate for themselves. I’m definitely also seeing the conversation among my colleagues — doctors and nurses — who are finding the words to ask people about their fears and hopes and the limits that they would place around what they’re willing to endure.”