NEW YORK--An international foundation headquartered in New York City hopes to trigger a national debate about death and dying in the United States. The Project on Death in America will be funded by the Open Society Institute, one of the Soros Foundations.
The Open Society Institute will award $5 million annually to people who are developing better approaches to the needs of the dying (see below for information on how to apply). The awards could go to doctors, nurses, hospice workers or scholars, or to community workers, church groups, artists, writers, or others, who somehow can find a way to improve the care of the dying.
The idea for the project came to philanthropist George Soros, founder and chairman of the Soros Foundations, from his experiences with the deaths of his parents and his reading of the works of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who pioneered the study of death and dying.
To oversee the project, a nine-member advisory board has been selected, headed by Kathleen M. Foley, MD, chief of the pain service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
"We want to encourage a national discussion on how we care for our dying in the United States," Dr. Foley said. "We want Congress and the NIH to focus on the issue and to provide policy and research leadership to help understand and transform our current culture of dying."
"I would like to move beyond medicalization to issues of meaning," Yale law school professor and Project Board Member Robert A. Burt, MD, said at a press conference. "I would suspect there is a lot of comfort being given to dying people within communities, within parishes. Wouldn't it be nice to get some money to them so they could train others? We want to get a proposal letter with smudges on it that looks like a good idea."
The Soros Foundation fosters the development of democracy and free trade around the world, particularly in previously communist countries.