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KFF Health News Conversation On Advance Care Planning: What You Need To Know Now

Planning for end-of-life medical care can be daunting and uncomfortable, which is why so many people put it off — or don’t do it at all.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, KFF Health News senior correspondent JoNel Aleccia moderated a discussion of the pressing issues surrounding end-of-life advance care planning. The discussion covered how to navigate the medical, legal and ethical landscape of end-of-life care. Topics included: what are advance directives and who should have one, how do people make sure that their wishes for end-of-life medical care are honored, and the special needs of dementia patients.


Thaddeus Mason Pope, Health Law Institute, Director

Pope is director of the Health Law Institute and a professor of law at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. His focus is using the law to both improve medical decision-making and to protect patient rights at the end of life. He is the co-author of the treatise The Right to Die: The law of End-of-Life DecisionMaking and he runs the Medical Futility Blog, which tracks developments in end-of-life care. Pope writes in the current issue of JAMA about the underlying ethical and legal issues for physicians who care for patients who choose to stop eating and drinking.

Charles Sabatino, American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging, Director

Sabatino is the director of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging, where, since 1984, as senior attorney and then as director, he has been responsible for the ABA Commission’s policy research, project development, technical assistance and education in areas of health and long-term care, guardianship and capacity issues, surrogate decision-making and end of life care. He is a fellow and former president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a legal advisor to the National POLST Paradigm Task Force.

Judith Schwarz, End of Life Choices New York, Clinical Director

Schwarz has been the clinical director of End of Life Choices New York and its predecessor organization Compassion & Choices since 2002. She has counseled hundreds of patients suffering from incurable and progressive or terminal illnesses, and their families, about end-of-life options and choices. She has recently focused on the option of voluntarily stopping eating and drinking as a means to a peaceful, patient controlled death and has become concerned about the need to complete advance directives by people newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Marian Grant, Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, Senior Regulatory Advisor

Grant is senior regulatory advisor for the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care or C-TAC, in Washington, D.C., and palliative care nurse practitioner at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She has served on the board of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, been faculty for the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium or ELNEC, and she speaks nationally and internationally on palliative care issues.

Rani Snyder, The John A Hartford Foundation, Program Director

Snyder is Program Director at The John A Hartford Foundation, a private philanthropy with the vision of a nation where all older adults receive high-value, evidence-based health care, are treated with respect and dignity, and have their goals and preferences honored. With more than 20 years of experience in working with pre-eminent health care institutions across the nation, Rani has demonstrated experience in identifying and guiding health care programs that have set the standard for medical best practices, increased medical education opportunities, and maximizing resources to improve health care broadly.

Elisabeth Rosenthal, KFF Health News Editor-in-Chief

Rosenthal joined KFF Health News in September 2016 after 22 years as a correspondent at The New York Times, where she covered a variety of beats from health care to environment to reporter in the Beijing bureau. While in China she covered SARS, bird flu and the emergence of HIV/AIDS in rural areas. Libby’s 2013-14 series “Paying Till it Hurts” won many prizes for both health reporting and its creative use of digital tools. Her book, “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business And How You Can Take it Back,” is being published by Penguin Random House in April 2017. She is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Medical School and briefly practiced medicine in a New York City emergency room before converting to journalism.

JoNel Aleccia, KFF Health News Senior Correspondent

Aleccia is a Senior Correspondent focused on aging and end-of-life issues on the KFF Health News enterprise team. Before joining KFF Health News in November 2016, she was a health reporter for more than a decade, covering regional and national news at outlets including The Seattle Times,, and Before that, she was a reporter, editor and columnist at newspapers in the Northwest. JoNel was a member of reporting teams that won National Press Club Awards for digital journalism focused on the Great Recession and on amputees in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

KFF Health News’s coverage related to aging & improving care of older adults is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation.