Sunday, March 1, 2009

Living and Dying in the Media Spotlight

In the UK, the celebrity news has been focused on the real life drama of Jade Goody, a celebrity launched by the reality TV series Big Brother. The line between privacy and celebrity is so easily erased, so do we draw the line again when a celebrity becomes sick? To her credit, Ms. Goody has been very public about her diagnosis with cervical cancer and apparently it is now metastatic and she has recently been given a prognosis in the weeks to months range. Her efforts to be public about her diagnosis and how she is living with a terminal prognosis has taken a potential voyeuristic car-crash feel and converted into something that may spark more dialogue about end-of-life care.


She has already been credited with increasing awareness in the UK for cervical cancer screening and treatment, similar to the "Couric effect" and colonoscopies here in the US. This weekend she was seen in the news because of 'hallucinations secondary to powerful painkillers' as one news source reported. (What medicine? It is not mentioned but note the fentanyl OTFC in the pics in the link) Because of this reaction she was rushed to an inpatient hospice unit. I wonder if this would have been the case in the US. I would imagine with the relative lack of inpatient hospice units when compared to the UK, she would have likely gone to a hospital.

Regardless, she did better once at the hospice and was planning some important family events in the next week. These issues are normally private and not discussed, so the openness in how she approaches this time of her life may hopefully spark many conversations for other people on how they would approach her challenges. For example, what do you tell children when someone is dying? Here is a quote from the article:

"Of course, the boys don't know it's a hospice. They just think mummy is in hospital."
Or how to maintain hope but prepare for death:
Meanwhile, Ms Goody's life coach has urged the reality television star's supporters to join together in thinking "positive thoughts". Sue Stone said it was too early to "write off" Ms Goody in her battle against cancer. "I've been inundated with e-mails from people fed up that everyone is writing Jade off," she said. "People from around the world have been getting in touch with me to say that they were given months to live by the doctors and are still here two years later. Miracles do happen."
The latest news has her leaving the hospice to be admitted for a possible abdominal surgery to relieve her abdominal pain. With the recent televising of death in the UK, she has made clear that she does not intend to do that.

(And how did I find out about all of this? The search function on Twitter for 'hospice.' Twitter is amazing.)

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