End-of-Life Issues Get an Airing on Prime-Time TV

Encouraging accurate portrayal of end-of-life issues in movies and television

In 1999 and 2000, W.E. Duke & Company, Los Angeles, (a subcontractor hired by the communications firm of Barksdale Ballard & Company, Vienna, Va.) worked with the Writers Project of the Last Acts® campaign to educate creative decision-makers within the entertainment industry on the need to portray end-of-life issues accurately.

Last Acts is a national communications campaign funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to mobilize professional and consumer organizations in efforts to improve end-of-life care.

The project was part of the RWJF program, Targeted End-of-Life Projects Initiative.

Key Results

  • The project accomplished the following:

    • Briefings with key writers and producers of the prime-time television programs ER, Gideon's Crossing, City of Angels and Strong Medicine led to six end-of-life story lines aired during the grant period.
    • The Writers Project provided a technical advisor to work with HBO in their film adaptation of "Wit," the Pulitzer Prize-winning play that portrays the difficulties of terminal illness in modern medicine.
    • The plenary session on end-of-life issues at the October 1999 Soap Summit in New York reached an audience of 85 writers, producers and researchers for daytime television programs.
    • Through its networking activities, the project expanded its constituent list of interested writers, producers, directors and researchers to more than 350.