Five Things You Need to Know About Death and Dying

When it comes to American TV entertainment, death is overwhelmingly delivered in breathtaking fashion—shootings, stabbings, suffocation (includes drowning), suicide, beatings, poisonings and explosions. Even the supernatural gets listed among the most common causes of dying onscreen.

Yet this picture seen by viewers bears little resemblance to the real-world personal nature of death. Shifting this cultural narrative was the focus of an online lunchtime panel discussion held April 26 titled “Five Things You Need to Know About Death and Dying,” co-sponsored by Hollywood, Health & Society and End Well, a nonprofit on a mission to transform how the world thinks about, talks about, and plans for the end of life.

Featured speakers included:

DAN FOGELMAN—Creator and executive producer of the acclaimed NBC drama This Is Us, which received 39 Emmy nominations throughout its six season run, and executive producer on the Emmy nominated comedy series Only Murders in the Building.

ATTICA LOCKE—An award-winning screenwriter, TV producer and novelist who most recently co-created and served as showrunner and executive producer for the adaptation of her sister Tembi Locke’s memoir From Scratch for Netflix.

IRA BYOCK, MD, FAAHPM—A pioneer in palliative care; clinician, author, educator and the founder of the Institute for Human Caring, a component of Providence St. Joseph Health.

ALUA ARTHUR— A death doula and the founder of Going with Grace, a training and end-of-life planning organization that exists to support people as they answer the question, “What must I do to be at peace with myself so that I may live presently and die gracefully?”

SHOSHANA UNGERLEIDER, MD (moderator) —Host of the TED Health Podcast; founder of, a media platform to transform the end of life experience; and a practicing board-certified internal medicine physician at Crossover Health in San Francisco.

Following the discussion, audience members were invited to join in breakout sessions on related topics, led by the panelists above as well as Claire Bidwell Smith, a therapist specializing in grief; and Samantha Trad, nationall director of care advocacy for Compassion & Choices, an organization that supports people in planning their end-of-life journey.

Breakout session topics included the use of psychedelics in end-of-life therapy, grief and death doulas, who provide support to both the dying and their loved ones.