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A scene from the documentary "Being Mortal.""

Emmy-nominated ‘Being Mortal’ explores end-of-life care in free screening Nov. 3

In a society that values life and living, talking about end-of-life issues can be challenging. To help move the conversation into the open, the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences is holding a free community screening of the Emmy-nominated documentary “Being Mortal” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, in Rooms 144-146.

After the screening, audience members can participate in a guided conversation on how to take concrete steps to identify and communicate wishes about end-of-life goals and preferences.

The panel discussion will feature Dr. Sharon Wilburn, Director of the JU Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program; Jayla Barnes, Palliative ARNP; and David Morrell, Palliative Team Chaplain for Baptist Medical Center. It will be moderated by JU Professor of Nursing Dr. Pam Rillstone, who specializes in psychiatric mental health nursing, grief and loss, and bereavement.

Dr. Atul Gawande
Dr. Atul Gawande

Many healthcare professionals are not adequately trained to have these discussions, and if they admit to having difficulty, how can the public be expected to be any better prepared?” Rillstone said. “In fact, many people put off the discussion until it is much too late, or avoid it altogether.”

“Being Mortal,” which first aired nationally in February 2015 on the PBS program “Frontline,” delves into the hopes of patients and families facing terminal illness. It investigates the practice of caring for the dying and explores the relationships between patients and their doctors.

The documentary follows a surgeon, Dr. Atul Gawande, as he shares stories from the people and families he encounters. When Gawande’s own father gets cancer, his search for answers about how best to care for the dying becomes a personal quest. The film sheds light on how a medical system focused on a cure often leaves out the sensitive conversations that need to happen so a patient’s true wishes can be known and honored at the end.

“Being Mortal” underscores the importance of people planning ahead and talking with family members about end-of-life decisions.

Seventy percent of Americans say they would prefer to die at home, but nearly 70 percent die in hospitals and institutions. Ninety percent of Americans know they should have conversations about end-of-life care, yet only 30 percent have done so.

“Being Mortal” screenings are being made available across the country through the collaboration and support of The John and Wauna Harman Foundation and Hospice Foundation of America. Jacksonville University is taking part in the national endeavor with Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Honoring Choices Florida and other local institutions to bring professionals and the community together to openly discuss end-of-life issues.

“This film comes at an opportune time, bringing this somewhat taboo topic out into the open, sharing real-life stories and resources to better deal with end-of-life issues,” Rillstone said.

For more information about the film, visit http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/being-mortal/. The film is adapted from Gawande’s 2014 national best-selling book of the same name. More information about the book is at http://atulgawande.com/book/being-mortal/.

The event is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, in Rooms 144-146 of JU’s Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare, 2800 University Blvd. N. Light desserts will be served. Free parking will be available in Lot C across the street from the Lazzara Health Science Center and Lot O in front of the building. For more information about the free screening, contact Community Hospice of Northeast Florida at (904) 407-6687.