Stories about Cure, Relief, and Comfort

Consider the Conversation 2: Stories about Cure, Relief, and Comfort

An Emmy Nominated Film by Michael Bernhagen and Terry Kaldhusdal

American medicine's success at fighting disease and extending life has created a new problem. That is, the vast majority of patients can now expect to die in a place (a hospital or nursing home) and in a way (with increased quantity, but reduced quality, of life) that most wouldn't choose if only asked. Talking about dying, which is as natural as birth, is now taboo. And, the reality is patients and families are suffering needlessly. It is a problem we never intended to create and one that must be solved, but how?

Twenty-one months in the making and entirely funded by private donations including the producers' labor, Consider the Conversation 2: Stories about Cure, Relief, and Comfort explores the effect of American medicine's success on the patient/doctor relationship and sheds light on the important role communication plays in helping both patient and doctor navigate the murky waters of severe chronic disease.

While in production, Michael Bernhagen and Terry Kaldhusdal interviewed physician experts from across the United States including Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; Duke University Medical Center; the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle; Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin; Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City; Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California; the University of Arizona in Tucson; the University of Wisconsin in Madison; Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare in Milwaukee; Yale University School of Medicine; and Zumbrota, Minnesota.

In addition, the producers visited with residents of a Chicago nursing home and were embedded with palliative care teams at Duke University Medical Center and the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics where they interviewed seriously ill patients from a variety of backgrounds and filmed actual patient/doctor conversations as they occurred in real time.

The documentary begins with Amanda Redig, M.D., a young internal medicine resident from Boston, sharing the beautiful story of her personal calling to medicine and ends with Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, answering a question about what needs to change in order to move from "what is" to "what could be".

In between, the viewer bears witness to some of the most powerful perspectives ever captured on film about the universal human hope for cure, need for relief, and wish for comfort.

Featured Doctors

* - indicates an appearance in the Director's Cut only.

Featured Patients

Among the seriously ill patients featured in the film are Chuck Herro, George Poirier, Laura Schurman and Greg Singer from Wisconsin; Al Lewis and Dwight Whitley from North Carolina; and Paula Gerber, Deborah Glaser, Iris Khalid and Kenneth Kling from Chicago.

Goals

The goals for Consider the Conversation 2: Stories about Cure, Relief, and Comfort are simple: 1) demonstrate that communication is a skill on par with diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis - something that medical professionals can teach, learn, and use for therapeutic benefit, 2) help patients, families and doctors understand that talking about end-of-life wishes well in advance can help prevent unnecessary suffering at end-of-life, and 3) lend additional momentum to culture change movements seeking to inspire end-of-life care that is more person-centered and less system-centered.

Release Dates

Two versions of the film have been created: 1) a PBS cut (56:46) for television broadcast, and 2) a Director's cut (86:00) for DVD release.  Important steps in the documentary's release trajectory include:   

  • The PBS cut premiered on Wisconsin Public Television on 5/27/14 and was released to public television stations nationwide via the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) on 9/26/14. Beginning that date, PBS stations can show the film as many times as they want, whenever they want, until 12/31/16.
  • The Director's cut was released on DVD via Amazon.com on 10/20/14.
  • In addition, the theatrical premiere of the Director's cut of Consider the Conversation 2: Stories about Cure, Relief, and Comfort took place on Saturday, October 4, 2014 at 7 p.m. at the Oconomowoc Arts Center in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

Impact and Reach

To date, the PBS cut of Consider the Conversation 2: Stories about Cure, Relief, and Comfort has aired 1,588 times on 268 public television stations in 41 states (reaching 80.1% of the nation), received an Emmy nomination from the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), and won eleven awards including two Bronze Tellys and the 2014 Global Film Awards Humanitarian Award.