inewsource was granted unprecedented access to a subacute unit in Coronado, Calif. to document and share the experiences of residents, families and medical staff. In this unit, people are kept alive, while their loved ones hold out hope for signs of recovery. inewsource reports a grim but very real situation where most of these people have not tasted food in years, cannot walk or talk, and they spend their days and nights in a hospital bed, motionless. They are young and old, infants and seniors.
“California taxpayers spend almost $2 million a day to sustain these patients. There is no cap on funding,” says Lorie Hearn, executive director, inewsource. “The default in the system is to keep people alive at all cost – it won’t let you die without your written permission, typically found in an advanced directive.”
Eighty-two percent of Californians say it is important to put end-of-life wishes in writing but only one-quarter have actually done that, according to a report issued by the California HealthCare Foundation. The reasons vary considerably. The primary ones are “many other things to worry about right now” (41 percent) and “don’t want to think about death or dying” (26 percent).
If people don’t make their wishes known, they could end up in a unit like the one featured in “An Impossible Choice.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 30, this inewsource special report is scheduled to air nationally on “PBS NewsHour.” “Nationally broadcasting a mini-documentary on end-of-life decisions is critically important,” says Hearn. “We hope it will spur viewers to have discussions with their loved ones and their medical care providers to ensure their wishes are carried out exactly as they envision.”
Check your local listings to determine when “PBS NewsHour” airs in your area.
Tethered to breathing machines and feeding tubes, people living on life support are a growing population that comes into public view only when the courts get involved. Then their names become familiar: Terri Schiavo, Karen Ann Quinlan, and recently 13-year-old Jahi McMath, from Oakland.
“An Impossible Choice” tells this story through the families who hold onto hope when there is little reason to. They’ve answered a question for a loved one that is a challenge to each of us: Should we let go – or do everything medically possible?
“’An Impossible Choice’ is our most ambitious investigation to date,” says Hearn. “It’s a topic no one wants to talk about, but one that every one should be talking about. It is time for conversations about death to become a part of life. We believe our special report can ignite interest and discussion.”
On Monday, Sept. 29, visit the project’s website, www.impossiblechoice.org, for a compelling narrative, 20 video vignettes, an opportunity to ask experts questions and to share personal stories. An animated storybook gives details about end-of-living planning and provides an advance directive for download.
Visitors are also encouraged to register for the inewsource newsletter for access to behind-the-scenes interviews with reporter Joanne Faryon.
NOTE FOR EDITORS: If you are interested in arranging an interview with Lorie Hearn or Joanne Faryon, please contact Denise Scatena at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-218-4889.
Established in 2009, inewsource has positioned itself as the go-to investigative journalism source in San Diego County and beyond. Dedicated to journalism for the common good, the independent nonprofit partners with the local public media affiliate KPBS to deliver journalism investigations that hold powerful people accountable. You can count on inewsource to give you precision-based reporting and in-depth analysis without opinion. inewsource reports have made a difference and earned local and national awards, including a certificate from Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and two first place Edward R. Murrow awards. For more information on inewsource or to contribute, please visit www.inewsource.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.