New EWTN Miniseries on End-of-Life Care and the Grace of a Happy Death

‘Whole Person Care’ discusses how Catholic health care in end-of-life and palliative care stages upholds the dignity and sanctity of human life.

End-of-Life Care
End-of-Life Care (photo: Sabine van Erp / Pixabay/CC0)

James Day has joined with Dr. Vincent Nguyen to produce a five-part EWTN miniseries entitled Whole Person Care: Living and Dying in the State of Grace. It will debut on EWTN television June 14-18 at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time. It is also accessible for livestream for free on www.ewtn.com on the same dates and time, and will be available for DVD purchase through EWTN's Religious Catalogue or purchased for streaming at https://ondemand.ewtn.com/

Whole Person Care discusses how Catholic health care in end-of-life and palliative care stages upholds the dignity and sanctity of human life, especially as a loving alternative to the growing demand by some Americans for physician-assisted suicide for those suffering and/or near the end of life. 

Based on the Whole Person Care Initiative (now known as the Caring for the Whole Person Initiative) implemented by the bishops of California and Catholic health leaders, this initiative serves as a guide for the series in two ways: first, to explore the theological and spiritual themes of a happy death; second, to cover health care choices for families as they prepare in the event a loved one is unable to speak for himself. 

It aims to offer a solution to what the Institute of Medicine found in a 2014 study — that the spiritual, medical and emotional needs for gravely ill people are largely unmet. The following is an interview with James Day.

 

Tell me about Dr. Nguyen’s and your background, and what expertise you have to produce Whole Person Care.

Dr. Nguyen is the palliative care program director at Hoag Hospital and is instrumental in the WPCI movement for the Diocese of Orange in California.

In October 2018, I was assigned to do a story for the Diocese of Orange’s newspaper Orange County Catholic on the Whole Person Care movement. I am a contributing writer for the paper in addition to working with EWTN. It was my introduction to whole person care, and Dr. Nguyen's work.

In March 2020, my father-in-law entered into hospice care through Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. Dr. Nguyen visited my father-in-law twice in his final hours, as well as during his stay in the hospital. I was so surprised to see him, and in the context of end-of-life care — and I was reading Nicolas Diat's A Time to Die at the same time — that I got the inspiration to produce a miniseries for EWTN on Dr. Nguyen's passion for whole person care, and get this intentional effort from those involved in the initiative out there to a greater audience. 

In October 2020, the bulk of the miniseries was shot at the EWTN studio at Christ Cathedral's campus. I edited the series in late 2020 and early 2021, with some additional post-production sound work done at EWTN headquarters in Irondale, Alabama. The series will debut in June 2021. I also wrote and provided the narration. I have an MFA from Loyola Marymount's School of Film and Television.

 

Tell me about the people you are interviewing, and why you selected them.

Dr. Nguyen is our main guide through the series. I facilitate and narrate the series — sort of like Peter Jennings of ABC. Guests include:

The Very Rev. E. Scott Borgman, Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Orange, for theological reflections on the Gospel of Life and the Church's position on the sanctity of life.

Patty Mouton, health care veteran, advance care planning expert, Vice President for Alzheimer's Orange County; she works with Dr. Nguyen in the palliative care program at Hoag.

Frances Broghammer, MD, UCI Psychiatry Residency Program, Chief Resident. She is also a Catholic, who discusses the medical ethics position of the Church on end-of-life care.

Lindy Wynne, pastoral counselor and host of www.mamasinspirit.com, on guidance for advance care planning. 

Lori Dangberg, Vice President of Alliance for Catholic Healthcare in Sacramento.

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a well-known Catholic evangelist from the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, who discusses caring for the whole person in relation to the Works of Mercy.

Sr. Therese Tran of the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Los Angeles, who provides personal testimony on what it means to die a happy death.

And my own wife, Christina, and then-6-month-old daughter, Isla Rose. Christina reflects on her experience of hospice care and her father's reception of the sacrament of the sick at home from Msgr. Douglas Cook of the Diocese of Orange. Isla Rose was born three weeks later at Hoag.

Also, Nicolas Diat provided exceptional photographs of the 12th-century statue of Our Lady of a Happy Death at the Benedictine Abbey of Notre Dame in Fontgombault, France. 

 

What is the connection you have with the Diocese of Orange and its chancery office at Christ Cathedral?

I am the Operations Manager for EWTN's west coast studio. The studio is located on the 8th floor of the Tower of Hope on the Christ Cathedral campus. We produce content in English and Spanish, including the weekly EWTN program Father Spitzer’s Universe (in addition to specials such as this miniseries). The studio has been at this location since 2015, which is also the length of time I have worked for the network.

I also wrote a book co-published by the Diocese of Orange and Sophia Institute Press, A Place for Christ Forever: Becoming Christ Cathedral (2019) on the transformation of Garden Grove’s Crystal Cathedral to Christ Cathedral. Cardinal Robert Sarah did the Foreword and Bishop Vann the Afterword.

Both Dr. Nguyen and I are parishioners in the Diocese of Orange. As I mentioned, I also contribute stories for the Orange County Catholic

 

What else would you like to share?

While people are likely somewhat familiar with hospice care, this miniseries seeks to highlight this initiative that puts together comprehensive resources for parishes and dioceses on how to address questions about palliative care as well as provide help for those in hospice — but especially for the patient's loved ones, who often times have to make decisions for their loved ones who cannot speak for themselves.

Finally, the intended audience for the miniseries is twofold: certainly for those encountering palliative care, but also for family members caring for those patients.

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