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Dying Well

4.35  ·  Rating Details ·  699 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
From Ira Byock, prominent palliative care physician and expert in end of life decisions, a lesson in Dying Well.

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. Dying Well brings us to the homes and bedsides of families with whom Dr. Byock has worked, telling stories of lo
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Riverhead Books (first published January 13th 1997)
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Nick Arkesteyn
May 12, 2013 Nick Arkesteyn rated it it was amazing
Many people, myself included, today don't really believe that we will die. Death is something that happens to other people somewhere else that appears as if it can be avoided. This aversion to death, an event that is basic to all life and is completely natural, amplifies our everyday fears and may cause us to shun people with illnesses and create innocent pariahs when they need us the most.

This book will give you the experience of dying many deaths and what it is like to face different situation
Shari Larsen
The author of this book, Dr. Ira Byock, has dedicated his life as a hospice director to make sure that no one should have to die in pain, or die alone. He is prominent spokesperson for the hospice movement. In this book, he shares the true stories of dying patients, and how important emotional work can be accomplished in the final months, weeks, and even days of life.

Through the stories of the patients, families and those that are dying that can learn to deal with doctors, how to talk to friends
Eric Chappell
Jan 03, 2013 Eric Chappell rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-reading
An incredibly beautiful and moving book. Ira Byock narrates the end-of-life stories of several patients in his hospice-program. His goal is to document the human capacity to experience meaning, value, transformation, even joy within the process of illness and dying. The life of an individual facing terminal illness and imminent termination of life can play a profound part in both the life of the person and their community. Byock is a wonderfully gifted writer who interweaves not only the medical ...more
Recommended by Tom Mahan and Susan Peterson, this is a wonderful book! I have a phrase that I've always used to admonish myself in making decisions: "Live your life in such a way..." That thought helps me for the short run and the long run. The message of this book reinforces that way of thinking.

Dr. Byock details so many ways of dying, and I was so pleased when he recommended Final Gifts since it's been a very important book for Jim and me. The important point is to live one's life in such a wa
May 14, 2013 Bobby rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Since death and dying is a professional (and not being immortal, I guess personal too) interest of mine, I've read a fair amount about it. This is one of the most moving and thoughtful books about this subject I''ve come across. The humanity of Dr. Byock (a hospice and palliative care specialist) and his patients vividly comes across in the stories he's written. Whole heartedly recommended for those planning to die well for those who are not.
Feb 10, 2012 Sue rated it really liked it
My sister has a terminal illness and I needed some help to understand what she's going through and how I can help her. This book written by a hospice physician uses case studies to illustrate that no matter what the disease, personality, age, or spiritual orientation, all human beings need to die with dignity and love. How that is accomplished is unique to each person, but there are common principles that should help anyone who is trying to assist their loved one travel from this life to the nex ...more
Michael Connolly
Feb 17, 2012 Michael Connolly rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, medicine
The author, Ira Byock, is a doctor in Montana specializing in helping dying patients. His goal is not to keep the patient alive as long as possible. His goals are: (a) to relieve pain, (b) to bring to patient closer to his family, (c) to resolve conflicts within the family, and (d) cleaning up loose ends. The terms palliative care and hospice care both refer to this kind of medical care. The term palliative care is more general and includes taking care of people with long term diabilities that a ...more
Mar 29, 2012 Joann rated it really liked it
Recommended to Joann by: NPR interview with author
It is interesting to juxtapose this book with the recently released "Twelve Breaths a Minute." (Lee Gutkind, ed.) Both are aimed at discussing end of life issues, the choices that we face with available advanced medical technologies and the ways in which we/society approach and come to terms with dying.

Gutkind's book contains essays written by 24 different people - giving individual perspectives. In Byock's book, he is the principal narrator, recounting the stories of a number of patients in hi
Sep 27, 2010 Shel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hospice
From the concluding chapter: "The stories in this book document the human capacity to experience meaning and value within the process of illness and dying." True.

Byock's dream: "Collectively, as communities, we must take back our responsibility for the care of our dying members." The experiences he shares as a medical professional with hospice care make a strong case for his humanitarian view and further his goal of moving society, "...toward an understanding of dying as a part of full, even hea
Elaine Kirsch
Jul 27, 2016 Elaine Kirsch rated it it was amazing
This is an important book for any individual to read who has a loved one that
has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. In my case, my husband was
diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and six months later passed away. During
that time of caring for him I did a lot of reading.

This book tells true stories of patients Dr. Byock has worked with in hospice
showing important emotional work which can be accomplished in the final months
and days of life. Did we do the right thing? Did we make the right d
Oct 13, 2016 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Conversations about death are never easy, but Dr. Byock opens the conversation with such beautiful anecdotes of love, compassion, and peace during the dying process that one almost cannot help but be inspired. From his years as a hospice director, Dr. Byock shares the moments that have touched him and helped him personally see the beauty of a good death. He addresses the differences in what a good death may mean to each individual, and makes recommendations for families supporting a loved one du ...more
Cynthia Edge
Apr 04, 2013 Cynthia Edge rated it really liked it
Read this book for my intro to hospice class. It is a great book that offers up the true stories of individuals who were in the author's care as a hospice doctor and shows how a good death is possible.

This book offers insight into how our culture/society needs to change in order to facilitate these good deaths in greater numbers. As it stands, America hates the idea of death and the medical community is very focused on trying to fix illnesses that just can't be fixed, when palliative care--incr
Dec 12, 2014 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-non-fiction
I think this is an excellent book for pretty much everyone, since we will all die, and many of us will accompany a family member or friend in their final months/days/hours. Physicians in particular could find this book helpful and informative . . . or at least they should! It uses a medical "case report" format, with presentation of several stories of people, family, and friends on the final journey, involving the Hospice care organization in Missoula, Montana. There are discussions of each "cas ...more
May 16, 2010 Mallory rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, medical
Written by a hospice doctor who has dedicated much of his life to palliative care, this book recounts about 10 end-of-life stories of Dr. Byock's patients. It is a valuable read for any person and provides insight into hospice care, and more particularly hospice care done right. The stories here not only reveal the palliative team's way of handling the medical aspects of these patients, but, more importantly their spiritual well-being, or their well-being within as they complete their life's sto ...more
Jun 24, 2014 Erich rated it liked it
As a nurse who works in the oncology field, I hoped this book would help illuminate some of the struggles of those I was treating, and at times it certainly did. But death is an extremely personal and individual experience, and after reading the first few chapters it became obvious that the stories Byock relates would have only limited application to other experiences.

This book does a good job evangelizing hospice. Certainly, Byock continues to do good work, and it's important for readers and th
Elaine Lewis
Aug 02, 2016 Elaine Lewis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dying well

My husband has terminal cancer. He took all the radiation treatments and chemo treats until he couldn't stand it anymore. The Dr. Recommended hospice. Let me tell you they are helping us so much. No pain, can eat small amounts of food. When there is a problem, hospice is only a phone call away. These stories are true. My husband is going to have a comfortable, painless death with his family around him. I believe Dr. byock is on the right trail. Very interesting book.
Jan 11, 2009 Linda rated it it was amazing
I am not quite finished with this book yet but I highly recommend it to anyone who is experiencing the death of a loved one. Byock is a great storyteller and the stories are touching and moving without being overly sappy. They have given me a sense of peace about my brother in law's impending death from kidney cancer. I read a few chapters each night and always end up bawling-- and a fair amount of tears are for the people featured in the book. This book is a really great reminder that we contin ...more
Jul 09, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hospice
Dr Byock spoke to my heart in this well-written on the importance of facing death with honesty and dying with dignity. It was a difficult book to finish because it tugged on my emotions, especially as I've begun hospice patient volunteer work. 'Work'. That is completely the wrong word for the privilege of spending time with someone at arguably the most meaningful point of their life. I am grateful to Dr Byock for bringing hospice to the forefront over the past twenty years so that now, Dying Wel ...more
Rita O'Connell
Oct 25, 2016 Rita O'Connell rated it really liked it
This book made me cry. It made me cry for my dad and all the people like me, who are poor and therefore don't"qualify" for a good end-of-life experience.

The author is a pioneer in the field of community-wide hospice. The cases he inscribes here, where he assisted, or was a consultant, had meaningful death.

Here in our society, especially if you are poor, or of color, have mental illness, you are at-risk. "You need to just die and make way for younger people who can contribute to society." That i
Oct 02, 2012 sylas rated it really liked it
This book offers a fairly frank picture of death on hospice. While lacking in nuance in some ways, Byock does a decent job of story telling through these several vignettes. I appreciated some of the questions Byock chose to ask people who were dying, including: what would make the rest of your life the best it could be? And, what would be left undone if you suddenly became more ill? Byock's well-honed gentle prodding and validation make for easy-to-use tools for other practitioners in this field ...more
Raqueeba Hassan
Dec 25, 2012 Raqueeba Hassan rated it it was amazing
An emotional and informative novel on hospice care and honestly one of the best books I've ever read. Dr. Ira Byock gives a detailed account of various end of life stories and events that will stick with you. As a healthcare professional, I'm faced with death on a daily basis and Dr. Byock did an excellent job of discussing some of the issues I deal with and how to approach them. Despite your background, this book is worth the read.
Jan 06, 2015 Elaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Dr Byock helped start the hospice movement. He described patients that he treated, how he adapted care according to their needs and the needs of the family, and how he learned from each patient. He eased fears, pain, physical care of the patient and he helped all involved to come to terms with death of the patient, I can't describe it well - just read the book. When I die, I'd love to have a doctor like him give my family and me emotional and medical support.
May 07, 2008 Liesl rated it really liked it
A collection of moving stories, written by a hospice physician, to show the many ways that people define "Dying Well". I found this book particularly moving given my role in healthcare. Whether someone you know is facing a life-threatening illness, or you are just looking to contemplate life in the bigger picture, this book will inspire you to live life to the fullest, and embrace hope wherever it is found.
Elizabeth Mahas
Sep 12, 2014 Elizabeth Mahas rated it it was amazing
A friend gave me this book about a month before my husband's mother passed away from cancer. According to this author's definition of dying well, her passing fit his best examples. I found all the stories interesting, but sometimes too close to home, and I would have to put the book down for a few days. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone wondering about hospice and helping a loved one die well.
Barb Graf
Jul 28, 2011 Barb Graf rated it it was amazing
Read this book when we lived in Illinois/ probably late 1990's. Actually got a signed copy of the book at a conference of the author. What a very gifted and wonderful resource for hospice nurses/staff and truly the author is a great mentor and groundbreaker in the hospice world with such emphasis on rights and needs of the patient and family. I really appreciate this book as well as the many wonderful people I have learned from in my work as a hospice nurse.
Linnea Hartsuyker
Oct 09, 2013 Linnea Hartsuyker rated it it was amazing
This book is a series of stories from working in a hospice organization, about the ways in which people who have enough time to know it's coming choose to die.

It is an incredibly moving book that everyone should read, because dying does come to all of us and to our loved ones. The book makes the case that no one should have to die alone and no one should have to die in pain, and there are ways to make sure of that.
Apr 19, 2008 Rae rated it it was ok
This was semi-helpful to dip into while my mother was approaching her death. I say only "semi-helpful" because I quickly realized that death is an extremely individual process. While there are numerous commonalities, the way death ultimately plays out is almost completely up to the individual. Therefore, this book could only really give sensible guidelines and counsel. Which it did.
Apr 19, 2008 Tiangcot rated it really liked it
Fantastic book written by a Hospice MD containing stories of different patients and their personal experiences with dying. He gives excellent insight and reflections on end of life issues. The physical process of dying is described well and helped me gain a better understanding of what terminally ill people might be feeling at different stages of the process. Have kleenex when reading.
Feb 18, 2014 PJ rated it liked it
Using case studies, the author discusses the importance of end-of-life nurturing and the possibilities of growth for both the dying and the caring. It is a good introduction to hospice care, when done right. The multiple discussions of families' perceptions of starvation has made me revisit my own advanced health care directives.
May 17, 2009 Merlyn rated it it was amazing
Dr. Ira Byock, a physician whose compassion and talent show through this little book, tells anecdotes of patients that have come under his care knowing the end is near. Well-written, emotive, and passionate, Dying Well skillfully examines the issues of terminal illness and death for the non-medical doctor.
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