The West Virginia Center for End of Life Care was featured in a documentary in which individuals confronting end-stage disease reflect on how they want to live their final weeks.

Produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, “The Last Chapter: End of Life Decisions” aired statewide Monday, Dec. 13. The special examined the need for advance directives including a living will and medical power of attorney as medical providers, patients and families share stories that range from heartbreaking to inspirational. The importance of timely, open dialogue about death cannot be overstated, according to Alvin Moss, M.D., director of the Center for End of Life Care.

“End-of-life discussions are very important. When patients, families, and doctors talk about the type of treatment that the patient would want at the end of life, everyone benefits,” said Dr. Moss, who’s also director of the Center for Health Ethics and Law at West Virginia University. “Research shows that in most cases, patients want to be kept comfortable at home with hospice helping their family. Patients don’t want to die in an intensive care unit connected to a breathing machine unable to talk. “

The program also discussed many ethical and practical questions about patients’ legal rights, family conflict surrounding end-of-life decisions, the tendencies of medical professionals to avoid conversations regarding death, and the need to document one’s desired scope of care in order to avoid treatment that can be unwarranted or even inappropriate.

“In research about the impact of end-of-life discussions, patients report a higher quality of life and less depression if they have had them,” said Moss. “Families say they receive more support from the health care team and have a better adjustment to the patient’s death. Doctors indicate that knowing what the patient wants makes it much easier to make decisions about what treatments to use and which to avoid. Overall there is less stress on everyone.”

This program is part of West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Aging with Grace and Dignity project, an on-going focus on healthy and productive aging and is produced by Suzanne Higgins. Previews of The Last Chapter: End of Life Decisions can be viewed at the West Virginia Public Broadcasting website at

More information about advance directives and palliative care service, including downloadable forms of all the documents discussed in the program, is available through the West Virginia Center for End of Life Care website,

Forms are also available at physicians’ offices and hospitals.


CONTACT: Amy Johns, HSC News Service