Reach and impact of a mass media event among vulnerable patients: The Terri Schiavo story

Academic Article


  • BACKGROUND: It is unknown whether health-related media stories reach diverse older adults and influence advance care planning (ACP). OBJECTIVE: To determine exposure to media coverage of Terri Schiavo (TS) and its impact on ACP. DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: Descriptive study of 117 English/Spanish-speakers, aged ≥50 years (mean 61 years) from a county hospital, interviewed six months after enrollment into an advance directive study. MEASUREMENTS: We assessed whether participants had heard of TS and subject characteristics associated with exposure. We also asked whether, because of TS, subjects engaged in ACP. MAIN RESULTS: Ninety-two percent reported hearing of TS. Participants with adequate literacy were more likely than those with limited literacy to report hearing of TS (100% vs. 79%, P<.001), as were participants with ≥ a high school vs. < high school education (97% vs. 82%, P=.004), and English vs. Spanish-speakers (96% vs. 85%, P=.04). Because of TS, many reported clarifying their own goals of care (61%), talking to their family/friends about ACP (66%), and wanting to complete an advance directive (37%). CONCLUSIONS: Most diverse older adults had heard of TS and reported that her story activated them to engage in ACP. Media stories may provide a powerful opportunity to engage patients in ACP and develop public health campaigns. © 2008 Society of General Internal Medicine.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Sudore RL; Landefeld CS; Pantilat SZ; Noyes KM; Schillinger D
  • Start Page

  • 1854
  • End Page

  • 1857
  • Volume

  • 23
  • Issue

  • 11