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Internationally-respected medical ethicist and palliative care expert to join OHSU as Oregon receives high marks for its focus on end-of-life issues for medical trainees

Oregon Health & Science University is pleased to announce an important addition to its nationally respected Center for Ethics in Health Care. David Barnard, Ph.D., J.D., will join the university and ethics center as the Miles J. Edwards Chair in Professionalism and Comfort Care. The position is named after the late Miles J. Edwards, M.D.,a distinguished doctor and ethicist at OHSU. Edwards died in 2006 following an extended battle with cancer. His final weeks were chronicled in a series of articles in The Oregonian.

Barnard is an expert in the ethical, spiritual and psychological impacts of illness and healing. Prior to his appointment at OHSU, he served as both a professor of medicine and law and a professor of clinical and translational science within the Center for Bioethics and Health Law at the University of Pittsburgh.

For the past 30 years, Barnard has taught and published books and articles on various ethical issues. From 1988 to 1999, he chaired the Department of Humanities at the Penn State University College of Medicine, the first such department ever established at any medical school. While in Pennsylvania, he served on the Governor's Task Force on Quality at the End of Life. He also co-chaired a committee that helped lead to the establishment of a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program in Pennsylvania. The POLST program was created and first launched in Oregon and has since spread to several other states. He will join OHSU in September 2012.

“For almost twenty years, many of us have pointed to Oregon as a model in our teaching about excellence in end-of-life care,” Barnard said. “OHSU and the Center for Ethics have been driving forces in what Oregon has accomplished. The opportunity to become part of this group at this stage of my career was irresistible.”

Barnard's appointment will bolster Oregon's expertise in end-of-life care, an area where the state is already considered a national leader as reported in the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care. For over two decades, the atlas has used Medicare data to provide information and analysis about national, regional, and local markets, as well as hospitals and their affiliated physicians.

One of the most recent Dartmouth reports on end of life care was published in February. The report, which highlights end-of-life care in residency training, includes statistics that point to Oregon's focus and success in this important area. The report focused on 22 academic medical centers including OHSU Hospital.

More specifically the report showed:

  • The high percentage of OHSU Hospital patients enrolled in hospice in the last six months of life (49 percent, the highest percentage in the study group).
  • The low number of unwanted hospitalizations (11.7 days in the last six months of life, ranked 2nd).
  • Percent of deaths in the hospital (many patients prefer to die outside of a hospital setting). At OHSU Hospital, in-hospital deaths occurred in only 25 percent of cases.
  • OHSU Hospital also had a low percentage (34.3 percent) of patients who saw more than 10 physicians in their final six months of life. Minimizing this number can help ensure better communication.
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