'Powerful' Look at Death and Dying Bill Moyers Guides Candid Examination in 4-Part PBS Series

Article excerpt

Everybody does it, and yet most of us are reluctant to talk about it.

PBS' Bill Moyers will break the taboo Sunday with the first part of a four-part series called On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying.

Locally, the series will be broadcast at 9 nightly, beginning Sunday and continuing through Sept. 13, on WJCT


TV-7 will then air all four 90 minute episodes on Sept. 17, beginning at 2 p.m.

"We have seen pieces of the series and it is excellent," said Kathleen Johnson, vice president for programs and planning for Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, which is helping underwrite the program along with St. Vincent's and

TV-7. "It's very powerful."

A recent survey found that death and dying was the most dreaded topic of discussion within families. It found that while 80 percent of us say we want to have choices about the care we receive at the end of life, fewer than 25 percent have put those wishes in writing. And it found that while 90 percent of us say we want to die at home, in fact 80 percent of us die in a hospital or some other institution.

The hospice movement has been an effort to get people out of institutions and into their own homes at the end of their lives. Community Hospice, for instance, currently serves 325 patients suffering from fatal illnesses. Only 24 of those patients are actually staying in the hospice's Earl B. Hadlow Center.

Moyers' series puts a human face on all this by looking at the stories of some people who illustrate the different issues surrounding dying. These include a woman dying in a Miami hospital who does not wish to die but who requires extraordinary measures to extend her life; a physician in Kansas City who prefers to avoid extraordinary measures and simply live "in the light of death;" a man in New Orleans, dying of Lou Gehrig's disease, who would like the option of assisted suicide but doesn't have it; and a woman in Oregon, dying of cancer, who does have that option. …