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"On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying" shows bold television programming

Moyers Series Sparks Local Discussions


It's not what the networks would consider must-see TV. In fact, many of us might call it must-avoid-at-all-costs TV. But that's exactly what makes Bill and Judith Moyers' upcoming PBS series "On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying" truly bold television programming.

The four-part series on death and dying in America airs on WCVE-TV 23 at 9 p.m. from Sept. 10-13. The series follows the intimate journeys of patients, families and caregivers struggling to balance medical intervention with comfort and compassion at the end of patients' lives.

But as with the Moyers' landmark series on addiction, "Close to Home," "On Our Own Terms" is more than a TV program - it is a national outreach movement which seeks to help people improve the way they die. In communities nationwide, discussion groups and other forums will be held to discuss the series and the issues surrounding death and dying.

In Richmond, several events are planned:

Immediately following the last installment of the series, WCVE will produce a live call-in program hosted by May-Lily Lee and featuring local experts including physicians, hospice administrators and clergy. Tom Smith, M.D., professor and chairman of hematology and oncology at VCU's Medical College of Virginia, is one of the physicians on the panel. "This program begins to raise awareness that people do have choices as to how to live the last weeks and days of their lives," Smith says.

Also, The Branch House, at 2501 Monument Ave., will host Five Salon Evenings, a series of discussions based on the Moyers series. The discussions will be held Thursday evenings from Sept. 7 through Oct. 5. For information about the Branch House event, call 355-1078, ext. 201.

Westminster-Canterbury, 1600 Westbrook Ave., will hold a discussion of "On Our Own Terms" Saturday, Sept. 16 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There will be three discussion groups to choose from: Facing One's Own Death; Discussion of Death with the Family; and Theological Aspects of Death and Dying. Registration deadline is Sept. 12. For information, call 264-6220.

Libraries in Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield plan discussion groups. Check with your local branch for dates and times.

The Shepherd's Center will offer discussion sessions at its West End and North Side campuses Thursday, Sept. 14 at 1:30 p.m.

Central Baptist Church, 1500 Courthouse Road, will offer a discussion session; call 794-8055 for information.

This is only a partial listing of area events being held in conjunction with the "On Our Own Terms" series. There are many more events planned at local churches and other community centers.

MCV-VCU's Smith encourages people to watch the Moyers series, even though it's a topic most people do not want to discuss: "Part of it is realizing that this is coming for all of us, and it's certainly a part of our parents' lives, our neighbors' lives. If you think of the people you know, you probably know somebody who is already facing what is a terminal illness," Smith says. The whole point of programs like "On Our Own Terms" is to raise awareness that people still have choices and control at the end of their lives: "If at some point you can't be cured, then demand to live your life to the fullest and be healthy and well for as long you can."

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