Talk About Death

May 27, 2014 Wisconsin Public Television Leave a Comment

A few months back, a story on NPR caught my attention with its chilling headline, “The Town Where Everyone Talks About Death.” It turned out the town was La Crosse and the focus of the story was on a medical ethicist at Gunderson Health System who has trained the staff to talk about death, and life, with their patients. The goal was to get patients to fill out advance directives that detail their end-of-life plans and reduce stress in serious times.

Consider the Conversation 2

Consider the Conversation 2 airs May 27 and June 24

The program got results. In La Crosse, 96 percent of the adult population has filled out an advance directive that states whether treatments to extend their life should be made. Throughout the rest of the nation, only 30 percent of adults have documented their wishes. Furthermore, La Crosse spends less on health care for patients at the end of life than any other place in the country.

The story on NPR has led me to have more conversations about my own end-of-life plans. Though I have not committed these plans to paper, a new program Honoring Choices Wisconsin is committed to improving advance care planning in medical facilities throughout the state. So, it’s likely only a matter of time before my doctor asks me about my end-of-life plans. The program is based on the program in La Crosse, and was partly inspired by the documentary Consider the Conversation, which looks at the issues most people will face at the end of their life.

The follow-up to that film – Consider the Conversation 2 – airs tonight. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, filmmaker Terry Kaldhusdal said,  “The first one is (that) you need to have the conversation, this one is what that sounds like, what that looks like, what that feels like.”

Join the 96 percent of adults in La Crosse who know what the conversation is like by watching Consider the Conversation 2 tonight, Tuesday, May 27 (encore June 24) on Wisconsin Public Television. To learn more about Consider the Conversation 2 and Honoring Choices Wisconsin, read the full story at

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