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Covering Coronavirus: Life and Death Decisions

As health systems across the country brace for a surge of COVID-19 patients, some hospitals have already been forced to make unprecedented decisions about who gets care and whether patients on the brink of death should be resuscitated. The heated debate is fueled by shortages of protective equipment and ventilators and the high risks faced by health care providers on the frontlines. In this webinar, we’ll discuss what questions journalists should ask providers and health systems to gauge their plans and preparedness and to understand the hard calls they are making on rationing care. But it’s not just hospitals who hold the keys. While much of the national conversation has focused on the grim realities forced on health systems because of scarce equipment and staff, overlooked is whether patients benefit from the most aggressive interventions. We’ll also discuss how patients and their families might weigh the tradeoffs and survivability of being put on a ventilator, and whether a “good death” at home might be another option. Palliative care specialist and author Dr. Sunita Puri will join the Center for Health Journalism for a moderated discussion.

WHEN: April 15, from 10 to 11 a.m. PT / 1-2 p.m. ET

REGISTER: [Now closed — watch recording above] 


Dr. Sunita Puri is the medical director for palliative care at the Keck Medical Center and Norris Cancer Center of USC, and the author of “That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour.” She completed medical school and residency training in internal medicine at the University of California San Francisco, and did her fellowship training in hospice and palliative medicine at Stanford University. A graduate of Yale University, Puri studied history at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and JAMA Internal Medicine. She has received writing fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, UCross Foundation, and Mesa Refuge. In 2018, she received the Etz Chaim Tree of Life Award from the USC Keck School of Medicine, awarded annually to a member of the faculty who provides humanistic and compassionate care.

 In conversation with:

Michelle Levander is the founding director of USC Annenberg's Center for Health Journalism. Before that she worked in daily journalism in California at the San Jose Mercury News and in Asia for the Asian Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine Asia. She also spent a year in Mexico, studying and later writing about immigrants as an Inter-American Press Association Fellow at El Colegio de Mexico and El Colegio de Michoacan. Levander is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and UC Berkeley.

 Webinars are free and made possible by The Commonwealth Fund and the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.  

Related reading:

It’s Time to Talk About Death,” by Sunita Puri, The New York Times

What you should know before you need a ventilator,” by Dr. Kathryn Dreger, The New York Times

Who gets the last ventilator? Facing the coronavirus, a hospital ponders the unthinkable,” by Eric Boodman, STAT

"When coronavirus kills, it's like death by drowning -- and doctors disagree on best treatment," by Lisa Krieger, San Jose Mercury-News

Faced with a crush of patients, besieged NYC hospitals struggle with life-or-death decisions,” by Ariana Eunjung Cha, Lenny Bernstein, Frances Stead Sellers and Shane Harris, The Washington Post 

Hospitals consider universal do-not-resuscitate orders for coronavirus patients,” by Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post

A system to allocate scarce ventilators and ICU beds gains traction for not counting any group out,” by Rebecca Robins, STAT

Getting Ahead of COVID-19 Issues: Dying from Respiratory Failure Out of the Hospital,” by Joann Lynn, Health Affairs

Ethical Framework for Decision Making in HPC During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization 



Our California Impact Fund offers mentorship and support to reporters who think big and want to make a difference in their communities through investigative or explanatory reporting on promising approaches to chronic ills. 


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