ABCD Exchange : February 1999 : QuickScan - News in Brief

Upfront - Barriers to Effective Pain Management
President's Letter - Turning a Corner
In the Sates - Media Briefing
Public Policy - Pain as a Fifth Vital Sign
Lunch Bunch - Legal Assisted Suicide in Oregon

News and Notes on End-of-Life Care

Washington, DC - Medical textbooks could improve physicians’ care of the dying by including the essentials of good practice; currently, these texts provide little information that would help a doctor to care for a dying patient. Researchers from the Center to Improve Care of the Dying reviewed four widely used medical textbooks on nine content domains for 12 leading causes of death in the United States. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, The Merck Manual, Scientific American on CD-ROM, and Manual of Medical Therapeutics provide little information on how patients with specific diseases die, although texts included mortality statistics. Physicians cannot turn to general medical textbooks for guidance about advance care planning, decision making, the effect of death and dying on a patient’s family, or symptom management. The article, "End-of-Life Care in Medical Textbooks," appeared in the January 1999 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, and can be read at

Richmond, VA - In late January, Michelle Finn, whose decision to remove her husband’s feeding tube generated national interest and controversy, spoke before Virginia state legislators. A bill had been introduced to reimburse Mrs. Finn the $48,000 in legal fees caused by state officials’ attempts to bar her from removing the feeding tube. The Washington Post reports that Mrs. Finn told the committee that the legal struggle "fractured our family," while politicians pursued "their own personal and political agenda." The February 4 issue of the Post described Gilmore’s vow to defeat the measure, saying, "I’m not about to back off now, because of politics or because of some political attack." Partisan politics seemed to win out, and in mid-February, a Republican majority defeated the measure. However, the bill’s sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw promises to reintroduce it during the final days of the Virginia legislative session; as Exchange goes to press, papers report that Saslaw has included the $48,000 in an amendment to the budget.

Tallahassee, FL - Florida Hospices and Palliative Care is seeking presenters for its 1999 Annual Symposium, Volunteer, Management and Physician Conference, to be held September 30 to October 2 in Orlando. The group is particularly interested in innovative approaches to improving and expanding end-of-life care. Deadline for submissions is March 22, 1999. For more information, contact the group at 850.878.2632.

Cyberspace - Look for helpful assessment links at Social workers who work in oncology will find information and links at Californians in search of advice on healthcare and elder law can find information at, which is run by H.E.L.P. (Healthcare and Elderlaw Programs Corp.) Those interested in programs to educate consumers on a range of pressing health care issues should visit the National Coalition on Health Care, a non-partisan, multi-year project, at

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This content is provided by Americans for Better Care of the Dying. For more information, visit