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Public Radio International

Death: A Five-Part Series

Part Two

Exit Plan

"Death is not a failure," writes Dr. Atul Gawande. "Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things." We live much longer than we used to, thanks to medical advances, but what are the emotional and financial costs of extending life? Some doctors don't know how to talk with their patients about preparing for death, so there's now a push to have frank conversations about end-of-life care. Also,one family's story of working within Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law.

 
Segment 1: Katy Butler on Heaven's Door

When Katy Butler's aging father got a pacemaker, his life slid into dementia, incontinence and misery. Katy talks about choosing care over cure.

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Segment 2: Atul Gawande Advocates Compassionate Medical Care

“I learned virtually nothing about mortality when I was in medical school,” Dr. Atul Gawande says. “I was terrible at knowing how to have a successful conversation with people facing terminal illness.” Gawande, author of the bestselling “Being Mortal,” is now trying to get people talking about better ways to live out the final chapter.

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Segment 3: One City Talks about Death

Less than 30 percent of Americans have filled out an advanced directive for end-of-life care, but 90 percent of the people in La Crosse, Wisconsin have one. Rehman Tungekar reports on Gundersen Health's remarkable effort to get an entire city talking about death and dying.

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Segment 4: A Photographer's Days with His Father

When photographer Phil Toledano's mother died in 2006, Phil - an only child - became his father's main caregiver. Phil started taking photos of him too. In the beginning, he says, "I was taking photographs for myself. I was recording something for myself." But when he started sharing the pictures online, the response was overwhelming.

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Segment 5: "Death Doesn't Bother Me, Anyway" Pt. 2

For 26 years, Dan Pierotti knew — really knew — that his days were numbered. In 1988 he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. In this second installment of his story, Dan and his wife Judy talk about the dealing with medication, hospice and Dan's decreasing mobility. And they consider whether or not he will stop taking the medicine that keeps him alive.

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Segment 6: Choosing Death With Dignity

Ben Wald chose to hasten the end his life in 2012, as he was dying of lung cancer. His wife, Pam, discusses both the decision and the process of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act.

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Segment 7: "When Death Comes," Read by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver has said, "The poem is meant to be given away, best of all by the spoken presentation of it; then the work is complete." To complete the second hour of the Death series, here's her reading of "When Death Comes," taken from At Blackwater Pond: Mary Oliver Reads Mary Oliver and used with permission from Beacon Press, 2006.

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Print
Death: A Five-Part Series
Death: A Five-Part Series
The Reckoning
November 9, 2014
 
Exit Plan
November 16, 2014
 
The Last Moment
November 23, 2014
 
The Wake
November 30, 2014
 
After Life
December 7, 2014

WITH SUPPORT FROM

The Nour Foundation: Exploring Meaning & Commonality in Human Experience
Promega Corporation