The title identifies the main point of this book: that dying well,
not a "good death," should be one's goal at life's end.
Byock is a leader in the hospice movement and an experienced
frontline physician, and he focuses on the continuous aspect of
dying rather than the one-shot of death. First, he stresses, pain
must be controlled, and then fear and loneliness reduced. Death,
he reminds, is as much a natural part of human life as birth,
and both can promote growth and understanding.
He describes 12 case histories at length, including that of his
father, a rural general practitioner. He punctures many myths
as he demonstrates that it is not illegal to die at home, that
death by starvation is not necessarily painful, and that addiction
to painkilling drugs is not a serious problem for a dying person.
Ever honest, he even cites one case in which pain, despite his
claims that it can always be controlled, really could not be.