We are born; we grow old; we die. And as the baby boom generation ages, our society must come face to face with the reality of death and dying in America.

September 8, 2000

BIRMINGHAM, AL — We are born; we grow old; we die. And as the baby boom generation ages, our society must come face to face with the reality of death and dying in America.

The Public Broadcasting System and local groups dedicated to care at life’s end hope to jumpstart a national discussion on death and dying with this month’s broadcast of a special television series by Bill Moyers, “On our Own Terms, Moyers on Dying.” Local community discussion programs are scheduled in Birmingham for later this month to help address end of life issues in Alabama. “The end of life is a difficult concept for many Americans,” says Dr John Shuster, director of the UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) Palliative Medicine Program and medical director of UAB Hospice. “Our society, particularly the medical community, is very focused on cure. We are not, by and large, as comfortable with the inevitability of death.”

Shuster is also executive director of Alabamians for Better Care at Life’s End (ABCLE), a state-wide coalition working to improve care at the end of life. He, along with other members of ABCLE and the UAB community, will help lead the local community programs, following the national broadcast of “On Our Own Terms, Moyers on Dying,” which airs September 10-13.

Shuster will moderate the first of the four public discussions on September 19, building on the topics explored in the Moyers specials. The community programs are open to the public. Entitled “Living with Dying”, the first program will use readings to stimulate community conversation, with an emphasis on personal stories connected to caregiving at the end of life. The discussion will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium in the Birmingham Public Library.

The second program, on September 26, is entitled “A Different Kind of Care." It will examine palliative medicine, which involves relieving pain and providing psychological, social and spiritual support to the terminally ill. Pam Fordham, assistant professor of Nursing at UAB is one of the featured panelists for that program. This program will be from 6-8 p.m. at Carraway Methodist Medical Center.

The third program in the series, “A Death of One’s Own”, will be held on October 3. This community forum will examine how society should care for those near death and debate the alternatives such as physician-assisted suicide, palliative care and sustaining life through any means possible. The third program will be from 6-8 p.m. at the Sheraton Civic Center.

The final program, “A Time to Change”, on October 10, will look at innovative changes in end-of-life care, including the Balm of Gilead Center at Cooper Green Hospital, which is featured in the Moyers special. Balm of Gilead integrates palliative care with mainstream health care.

Shuster and other UAB medical professionals and ABCLE participants are available for media interviews. Call Bob Shepard, UAB Media Relations, (205) 934-8934.

The community discussions are sponsored locally by the Birmingham Public Library, the American Library Association and the National Issues Forums, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Support also provided by the community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.