End-of-life Issues on the National Stage: A Content Analysis

By Nathan Boucher.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: July 24, 2015 $US5.00

Did the 2009 “death panel” social media post by former U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin catalyze nation-wide discourse regarding end-of-life issues during evolving U.S. health reform? A summative content analysis of print media utilizing grounded theory compared print news items published before and after the post. High-circulation U.S. newspapers were queried using seven search terms. Analysis showed substantial increases in items concerning end-of-life issues in the 3 months following the post versus the prior 3 months. The New York Times had the largest increase (before: 12; after: 87) followed by New York Daily News (0; 21) and USA Today (4; 21). Top emerged themes were end-of-life issues used as a political “football”; concerns about healthcare cost; and public confusion about proposed reforms. The post likely assisted in catalyzing national discussion about end-of-life concerns. This is important for health care policy noting the impact of social media on public discourse; print news representation of critical health conversations; and omnipresent emotions behind end-of-life issues.

Keywords: United States politics, terminal illness, advance care planning, end-of-life care, public opinion, quantitative methodology

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 5, Issue 4, December 2015, pp.61-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: July 24, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 438.356KB)).

Dr. Nathan Boucher

Director of Graduate Education, Assistant Professor, School of Health Science, Physician Assistant Program, Touro College, New York City, NY, USA