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Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life
by Ira Byock, M.D.



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. William Beatty

 

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