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A difficult discussion
Being Mortal explores end-of-life decisions, challenges
Being Mortal cover

Ogeechee Area Hospice and Magnolia Coastlands Area Health Education Center will hold a free community screening of the documentary “Being Mortal” on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the community room of Ogeechee Area Hospice on Donehoo Street in Statesboro.

All health care professionals and community members are invited to attend to gain insight into the challenges and struggles of end-of-life decisions.

The film is adapted from Dr. Atul Gawande’s 2014 nationally best-selling book of the same name and follows the surgeon’s encounters with patients and their families. When Gawande’s own father is diagnosed with cancer, the doctor’s search for answers about how best to care for the dying becomes a personal quest.

Following the screening, audience members may take part in a guided conversation about concrete steps to identifying and communicating end-of-life wishes.

Though she highly recommends Gawande’s book, Dr. Linda Upchurch, executive director of Ogeechee Area Hospice, said the event is not to promote the book specifically but rather to elicit a conversation about life and living it to the fullest until death.

“We will learn how to ask the right questions in order to make informed decisions regarding our own mortality,” Upchurch said.

The documentary looks into the hopes of patients and families who are facing terminal illnesses. The film also investigates the practice of caring for the dying and explores the relationships between patients and their doctors.

“Being Mortal” reveals that oftentimes, medical systems focus solely on providing a cure and do not include sensitive conversations that need to occur in order for a patient’s wishes to be known and honored at the end of their life.

“‘Being Mortal’ can be a difficult concept to grasp when there are so many choices now in healthcare,” Upchurch said. “The question at the end of life is most often how to achieve quality of life. This is especially difficult when everyone’s perception of quality differs, even that of the provider and the patient or family.

“As hospice providers, we know that making difficult decisions is one of the most challenging things for patients and families to do.”

Valerie Embry, coordinator of continuing education and special projects at Magnolia Coastlands, said: “The goal of the event is threefold: to support dialogue between medical and general audiences so both can hear from one another and discuss the issues; to encourage, prepare and train medical professionals to bring up these issues with their patients more effectively; and to inspire general audiences to bring up this topic with their doctors and loved ones and to take the next steps in developing their end-of-life wishes.”

According to the Hospice Foundation of America, 70 percent of Americans say they would prefer to die at home, but nearly 70 percent die in hospitals and institutions. The research also revealed that 90 percent of Americans know they should have conversations about end-of-life care, yet only 30 percent actually do.

The free screening is made possible by a grant from The John and Wauna Harman Foundation in partnership with the Hospice Foundation of America.

For more information about the screening, which will be followed by light refreshments, or to RSVP, contact Embry at (912) 478-5030 or email


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