Dr. Margaret Hallahan

Penny Shope Palliative Care Testimony

I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Margaret Hallahan. She is a wonderful and compassionate physician with exceptional bed-side manner. Her direct approach and calming words to a serious issue were desperately needed to diffuse a difficult situation.

My 87 year old step father-in-law had been ill for many months and was declining rapidly with multiple health issues which had landed him in the hospital many times this past year with his most recent admission being to the intensive care unit. Throughout all of his illnesses his greatest wish was to pass comfortably with no life support measures being taken.

Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to us, he and my mother-in-law did not have a living will. My mother-in-law expressed his wishes to the hospitalist and a DNR bracelet was put on his wrist with paperwork in progress for a POLST form. (Advanced Directive form)

When my step father-in-laws’ adult children came to visit, they were distressed with the DNR bracelet and understandably, wished to have life support measures put in place for their father.

These conflicting feelings from both sides of the family were causing my 84 year old mother-in-law to begin to experience her own decline in physical and mental health.

The ICU staff offered to reach out to Dr. Hallahan for a palliative care consultation. Dr. Hallahan, unaware of the conflicting family feelings, performed a medical assessment of my step father-in-law. She met with his entire family and was very surprised that there were 26 family members present. The group consisted of my step father-in-laws’ children and adult grandchildren and my mother-in-laws’ children and adult grandchildren. Dr. Hallahan admitted it was her largest palliative care meeting.

Yet, she was not intimidated by the large number of concerned relatives but remained calm and focused on the issue at hand.

In a very calm and caring manner she stated her medical evaluation of the patient. Both sides of the family asked very personal questions to Dr. Hallahan about their father and husband to which answers were directly given with a careful and thorough explanation. Dr. Hallahan did not ‘fluff’ her answers, she did not discount any ones feelings, she was very professional, she made us all aware that our feelings, whichever way we felt, were valid and came from a loving heart.

She made what could have been a difficult situation, with the possibility of years of unresolved family problems, into a very understandable and acceptable fate.

Through Dr. Hallahan’s caring and professional actions both sides of the family grew to understand the entire approach to the upcoming inevitability.

We appreciate the impact she had on our family and are proud to know she serves Huntingdon County and our community. Dr. Hallahan is an invaluable resource for the families of patients needing her care.


Penny S. Shope