Community workshop on family health decisions to be held at Kent Place School

SUMMIT — While many families defer conversations about health care until a pressing medical need arises, experience shows that “having the conversation” early, often and in times of good health, improves quality of life for everyone involved. To demystify this conversation and provide local families with tools for opening discussions, The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School, in collaboration with Overlook Medical Center, is hosting “Having the Conversation: Making Important Health Care Decisions.”

This interactive intergenerational community workshop will be held Tuesday, Oct. 22 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Hyde and Watson Theater on the Kent Place Campus.

Planning your life’s journey—including the last chapter—for yourself and your loved ones, is essential to ensuring a good life. Since end-of-life care decisions affect people of all ages, The Ethics Institute and Overlook Medical Center, through this workshop, hope to reach teens and adults in all stages of life.

“Having a face-to-face conversation with your loved ones about your end-of-life preferences can release them from incredibly difficult and burdensome decisions,” explained Dr. Jeanne Kerwin, ethics and palliative care coordinator at Overlook Medical Center. “With modern medicine’s myriad of life-sustaining technologies, one must actually plan and ‘orchestrate’ the last chapter of life. If we leave it to chance, we lose control of the journey and those things that are most important to us,” said Kerwin.

The workshop will feature a screening of Anna’s Story, a documentary about end-of-life care conversations with family members and care providers, as well as a panel. Guest speakers include Overlook Medical Center staff: Sue Fessler, MD PhD FCCP, medical director of intensive care; Sharon Burniston, MDiv, palliative care chaplain; Jeanne Kerwin, DMH, CT; Ann Touhill, RN, intensive care unit; and Kent Place School Bioethics Project 2012 student scholars, and a family member with recent experience in end-of-life care conversations.

The Ethics Institute and Overlook Medical Center share a common mission to support community awareness and involvement in biomedical ethics. The event is free and registration is open to the local community. Due to limited seating, advance registration is requested. To register or for more information, visit

Kent Place School is located at 42 Norwood Ave. in Summit.