Having ‘The Conversation’ About End-of-life Medical Care: East Bay Ripe for That Discussion

Posted on 04/16/2013

The San Jose Mercury NewsHave you had “The Conversation?”

If you haven’t, you will, in part because the Bay Area is swiftly becoming a center of discussion about an experience we all face, and how to talk about it.

“The Conversation” is a better-sooner-than-later dialogue among loved ones to discuss end-of-life choices, including medical care.

To help kick off a campaign to help people at the end of their lives die according to their wishes, the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association and the Contra Costa Council hosted Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and social commentator Ellen Goodman for an all-day conference on the subject Thursday at the Concord Hilton.

Goodman is co-founder of The Conversation Project, a national grass-roots movement whose infrastructure is a construct of stories. Beginning in 2010, Goodman and her colleagues told and gathered stories about “good deaths” and “hard deaths”; accounts of panicked, pressurized hospital conversations; and of calm, dignified endings.

“The experiences we’re all having with people we love who come to the ends of their lives are huge,” Goodman said during a break in the program. “It’s parallel to the women’s movement, where everyone had deep stories, but it wasn’t until those stories were shared that change began.”

After first spreading its message through the national media, The Conversation Project looked for “regional pockets” where end-of-life conversations were already taking place at the dinner table or the kitchen counter.

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