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UHN News is hoping to advance the conversation with a week-long series beginning today. (Source: UHN News)

We need to talk.​

Death has long been a taboo subject, the elephant in the room. Not just at our dinner tables and other family gatherings but even in our hospital wards.

That's beginning to change.

Our courts are weighing in on the contentious issue of right-to-die and assisted death. So too, are provincial Legislatures and federal Parliament. Those discussions are often emotional and polarized.

The Canadian Medical Association held a series of public town hall meetings last year and consulted its members on end-of-life care. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is reviewing its policies.

At University Health Network, we're hoping to not just be a part of this conversation on end-of-life care, but to broaden it. Beginning today and culminating next Friday, we're going to devote all of our news stories on the corporate intranet and public website, UHN.ca, to the exploration of this vital subject.

The series will feature stories from patients, caregivers, doctors, nurses and researchers. It's ambitious and it's bold. But we think one of the biggest issues in health care today deserves such attention.  

Last month, two key reports highlighted how much needs to be done. Ontario's Auditor-General called the province's "patchwork" of end-of-life care services inequitable and inefficient. Health Quality Ontario pointed to the need for increased numbers of health-care professionals trained in this area and earlier conversations with patients, their caregivers and their families about planning for death.

Our stories, videos, pictures and graphics next week are about so much more than planning for death.

They are about living our lives as fully as possible.

We will offer a guide to end-of-life care in general, and at UHN in particular. It will include addressing some of the myths and misconceptions about palliative care. One such myth is that palliative care is only for the dying. That's simply not true. It also serves those who may live several years with a life-limiting illness. There will be a look at advance care planning, which underscores the importance of making personal end-of-life wishes known.

Spiritual Care, how clinicians talk to patients about end-of-life care, and how families struggle to cope will also be explored. We'll hear from health care professionals about why they've dedicated their career to a topic many find so hard to discuss. There will be an overview of services at UHN and across Ontario.

One series of news stories cannot provide all the answers. That's not the intent. In fact, there's no right and wrong answers with such a personal topic.

What's important is that we advance the conversation.

Below is a series of stories designed to do just that. They were first published in early 2015.

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