Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life

Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life

4.8 6
by Ira Byock
     
 

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Nobody should have to die in pain. Nobody should have to die alone. This is Ira Byock's dream, and he is dedicating his life to making it come true. The longtime director of a hospice in his hometown, and a prominent spokesperson for the hospice movement, Dr. Byock believes that the possibility for us all to die well is just around the corner: the day is at hand when… See more details below

Overview

Nobody should have to die in pain. Nobody should have to die alone. This is Ira Byock's dream, and he is dedicating his life to making it come true. The longtime director of a hospice in his hometown, and a prominent spokesperson for the hospice movement, Dr. Byock believes that the possibility for us all to die well is just around the corner: the day is at hand when no pain among the dying will be considered unmanageable. He shows us that much important emotional work can be accomplished in the final months, weeks, and even days of life. Dying Well brings us to the homes and bedsides of families with whom Dr. Byock has worked, telling stories of love and reconciliation in the face of tragedy, pain, and conflict. It provides a blueprint for families, showing them how to deal with doctors, how to talk to friends and relatives, and how to make the end of life as meaningful and precious as the beginning. Here is a book like no other on the subject: hopeful, clearsighted, and life-changing.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This study of how to die well displays uncommon vitality. Byock, president elect of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care, is a gifted storyteller. Beginning with his own father's terminal illness, he details without scientific cant the process of decline that awaits most of us. The case studies, which form the humanistic soul of this work, never devolve into the maudlin or saccharine. Life on the edge of the great crossing is explored in all its sadness and pathos, but Byock also makes room for wisdom, hope and even the joy of final understanding. By recounting the passages of patients in his Missoula, Mont., practice, Byock makes a forceful case for hospice care and against physician-assisted suicide. He demonstrates how the physical pain and emotional despair of the dying may be handled. The family constellation of the terminally ill is also analyzed, with emphasis on a hospice's ability, through its doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers, to help those left behind. Not only is this book informative, especially the question-and-answer section at the end, it is also insightful. Readers will sense Byock's personal growth as his understanding of final issues flowers through a 20-year specialization. Byock recalls his growth from a callow resident to a concerned son and, finally, to a healer with a mission. Whether it's the middle-aged mother who must resolve disillusionment with her sister, the bitter father of three who achieves serenity or the gutsy teenage girl with a rare genetic disease, the people whose sojourns Byock recounts receive from him the dignity they merit. German rights to Kinder Verlag; author tour. (Jan.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Many terminally ill people fear that their last days will be spent as burdens to their families, helpless, without dignity, and in unbearable pain. Often, the only alternative to such a death seems to be assisted suicide. In either situation, the dying person and family members are denied the opportunity to make the most of their remaining lives. Byock, a hospice physician practicing in rural Montana, learned well the possibilities for dying while caring for his father, who died from pancreatic cancer during Byock's medical training. This book tells the story of his father's final illness and those of hospice patients Byock has helped through the dying process. Focusing on the clinical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of death, the stories emphasize Byock's unshakable belief that physical and psychological suffering can always be alleviated through the devoted efforts of hospice caregivers. He offers realistic yet compassionate answers to the hard questions asked by dying patients, their families, and a society unwilling to accept that all life eventually comes to an end. Highly recommended for all collections.-Karen McNally Bensing, Benjamin Rose Inst. Lib., Cleveland
Kirkus Reviews
A hospice doctor's wrenching stories of dying patients and their families, which dramatically illustrate his belief that the transition to death can be one of life's most meaningful experiences.

Byock, a specialist in palliative care who directs a hospice in Missoula, Mont., has chosen stories that represent a wide range of experiences, each focusing on some aspect of human growth. Pseudonymns are used throughout except for Byock's moving account of his own father's death and the story of the Merseal family, whose dying son was the subject of a 1996 HBO documentary. What is crystal clear in all of them is that the full experience of dying is not captured from a purely medical perspective. Without proper medical care, dying can be agonizing, but relief of physical pain, which Byock contends is always possible, is by no means the whole picture. In his experience, emotional pain is more intense and requires more skillful intervention. Dying well, says Byock, involves reaching certain landmarks, which he encourages his patients to achieve: asking forgiveness, accepting forgiveness, expressing love, acknowledging self-worth, and saying good-bye. One of the hardest to read of Byock's stories describes the death of Terry, a 31-year-old mother with cancer who cannot reach these landmarks and suffers greatly. Her story also illustrates the fine distinction between hastening death and ensuring comfort. Byock, who argues that the euthanasia debate has distracted our attention from more logical and humane approaches, is not afraid to give his considered opinions about assisted suicide, vegetative states, and feeding tubes.

Often reminiscent of Michael Kearney's recent Mortally Wounded (p. 1029), which described that doctor's work with patients in an Irish hospice, this is another powerful argument in favor of the hospice movement and rejection of the Kevorkian approach.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781573220514
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/27/1997
Pages:
299
Product dimensions:
9.28(w) x 6.25(h) x 1.13(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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