Photo Credit Howard Korn Photo Credit Howard Korn Photo Credit Howard Korn Photo Credit Paxton Winters Photo Credit Doug Baz

End of Life

Overview

End of Life presents readings of ancient Greek plays, Sophocles’ Philoctetes and Women of Trachis, as a catalyst for town hall discussions about the challenges faced by communities, patients, caregivers, and medical professionals who work in the fields of palliative care, hospice, geriatrics, and nursing. The selected scenes from the two plays present emotionally charged, ethically complex situations involving suffering patients and conflicted caregivers, providing an ancient perspective on contemporary medical issues.

This interactive event is intended to promote healthy discussion within diverse communities, fostering compassion, cooperation, and understanding with regard to the management of chronic suffering and the mortality we all share.

The project is also a teaching tool used by medical institutions, such as Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the University of Virginia School of Medicine, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Falmouth Medical Center, and the Mayo Clinic (Rochester), to prepare physicians, physicians in training, and other medical professionals to face the challenges of attending to the needs of terminally ill and chronically suffering patients and their families.

Performances are presented in full-length (2 hours) and grand rounds format (50 to 60 minutes). Each performance is followed by a town hall-style audience discussion, which is facilitated with the help of nurses, doctors, patients, and other caregivers and community members.

End of Life premiered for an audience of students and professionals at Harvard Medical School in March 2010. It was also presented as part of Harvard Medical School’s Bioethics course in June 2010. In 2011, it was presented at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.