BWHers share what inspired them about a recent documentary on end of life care.

Earlier this month, PBS Frontline’s Being Mortal premiered. Many BWHers participated in the production or tuned in to watch the hour-long documentary. The documentary tackled one of the hardest topics in medicine: end of life care, and prompted thoughtful conversation. We asked members of our community to share their reflections on Being Mortal – what scenes or themes inspired them, stood out to them or stuck with them after the show ended.


CathleenRowlandBeing Mortal, Dr. Gawande’s book and PBS Frontline documentary, impacted me both personally and professionally. As an oncology nurse, caring for someone at the end of life is a privilege. We understand it takes a great deal of courage for a cancer patient to say, ‘I have had enough.’ They worry about disappointing and failing their loved ones and many times that includes the team caring for them. But wanting and having a peaceful death is never a failure.”

-Cathleen Rowland RN, MSN, MPH, OCN, BMTCN, Nurse Educator, Nursing Services


ShoaClarkeBeing Mortal shares some inspiring examples of patients, families and physicians focusing on ‘what matters most’ while dying. As it came to a conclusion, I felt myself wishing for a part 2, a part 3, a part 4 – however many parts needed to give voice to the full spectrum of experiences that physicians and patients face at the end of life. Atul Gawande has started a conversation that we must continue. For far too many patients, the question of ‘what matters most’ is not being asked. It’s time that we as a society confront end-of-life care head on. Every person dies. Our challenge is to assure that each is able to die with dignity.

-Shoa Clarke, MD, PhD, Resident Physician, Brigham and Women’s Family Care Associates


JeffDurneyBeing Mortal reminded me how important the work we do here at Ariadne Labs is for patients at the most vulnerable times in their lives. What struck me the most about this film was just how late in the game we tend to have these conversations and what a profound difference it can make when we don’t wait until the final days to really ask how a patient wants to die. This a powerful lesson we all need to learn not only as researchers, but as people who will all face this situation some day.”

-Jeff Durney, MS, Quality Improvement Advisor – Ariadne Labs, Department of Surgery


SuliatNurundeen“As a trainee, there is always some feeling of discomfort when delivering difficult news to a patient, especially when that news involves care at the end of life. Being Mortal highlighted the fact that as a community of physicians, these are daunting conversations to have regardless of your level of training. The remarkable insight into the struggle from the patient perspective stresses the pressing need for more dialogue and training in this area.”

-Suliat Nurudeen, MD, General Surgery Resident, Department of Surgery