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Dying a Good Death: Palliative Care Conference Addresses Health Care's Final Questions

The power of contemporary medicine is strong-so strong that, at times, that sick patients and their families feel compelled to try every avenue to extend life.

But is that what people want and need?

A two-day conference, the Palliative Care and Ethics Conference, on Thursday, May 16, and Friday, May 17, at Duquesne University, will examine the ethical, philosophical and religious issues that arise in daily care for patients at the end of life.

Hosted by Duquesne's Center for Healthcare Ethics, the conference will provide speakers, break-out groups and case discussions to expand understanding of end-of-life care and the capacity to deal with these issues, including the philosophical and religious queries at the end of life. It is aimed at care providers, including nurses, social workers and chaplains.

In a survey by the Pittsburgh Center for Research on Healthcare, 86 percent of Medicare-aged patients said they prefer to die at home if they have a terminal illness. Yet, nearly 30 percent of the Medicare-aged patients with cancer died in the hospital, according to Dr. Henk ten Have, director of Duquesne's Center for Healthcare Ethics.

Overwhelming evidence from many studies shows that most patients in the last six months of life prefer care and pain/discomfort relief over life-sustaining procedures, said ten Have, who is both a medical doctor and a Ph.D. Many patients want to discuss end-of-life care, but communication is delayed or lacking.

Broaching that difficult subject forms the foundation of the upcoming conference.

Highlights will include:

Thursday May 15

  • Dr. Cristen Krebs, Catholic Hospice founder/executive director, Introduction to Palliative Care/Hospice Care
  • Sr. Rosemary Donley, holder of the Jacques Laval Chair for Social Justice in Duquesne's School of Nursing, keynote lecture on Suffering, Death and Palliative Care
  • Dr. Daniel A. Iracki, internal medicine specialist, pulmonary medicine specialist and palliative care director at Monongahela Valley Hospital, Autonomy and Dependence
  • Dr. James Rosetti, associate director of the cell transplantation program at Western Pennsylvania Hospital, Quality of Life and Good Death in Palliative Care.

Friday, May 16

  • The Rev. William J. Waltersheid, auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh and a graduate of the Pottsville Hospital School of Nursing, Spirituality and Palliative Care
  • Dr. Gerard Magill, Vernon F. Gallagher Chair for the Integration of Science, Theology, Philosophy and Law, DU's Center for Healthcare Ethics, Moral Deliberation
  • Dr. Henk ten Have, also UNESCO's director of the Division of Ethics of Science and Technology, Sedation in Palliative Care. 

Continuing Education credits are available for nurses, social workers, and chaplains. Registration is $180, including breakfast and lunch.

For more information, contact Glory Smith at smithg@duq.edu, 412.396.4504 or visit www.duq.edu/palliativecare.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
www.duq.edu