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Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life
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Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,121 ratings  ·  117 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
Paperback, 299 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Riverhead Books (first published January 13th 1997)
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 ·  1,121 ratings  ·  117 reviews

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Lorilin || thegoodbug
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, wellness
This book came on my radar years ago—I mean, seriously, like a decade ago, at least. I heard really good things about it, but I was too scared to read it, because, well, death. It wasn’t until a family member was diagnosed with lung cancer recently that I finally decided that enough was enough, death was here to stay, so I may as well get comfortable with it. I never did get quite “comfortable” with it, but reading this book definitely helped me feel calmer about dying.

Ira Byock is a prominent p
Nick Arkesteyn
May 12, 2013 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
Emma Sea
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: death
ok good, but very, very old. 20 years old. That's a hell of a long time in palliative care, medical science, and attitudes to death. A good conversation starter, but yeah, outdated. ...more
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
Feb 10, 2012 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
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: quotes, non-fiction
This non-fiction book about hospice care took me eight months to read because of its heavy subject matter but I'm glad I did read it. Each chapter was a patient case study recounted from the perspective of their hospice doctor (the author.) In my ongoing efforts to face my own fear of death, this book taught me a lot and was easy to understand. Even though it was written in 1998, I bookmarked almost all of the Q&A responses at the end, to return to again and again.


Modern medical technolog
B. Jean
Trust me, I'm not being depressing when I read hospice books. What started out as a way to research & find meaning in my mother's death has turned into a sincere interest in hospice care. If this whole art thing doesn't work out, I've been toying with the idea of going back to school to be involved in hospice in some sort of way. (None of my siblings went into the medical field after doctor dad and nurse mom, so maybe I'd be the one, haha.)

As for the book though, this was an excellent read. I wo
Eric Chappell
Jan 03, 2013 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 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. ...more
Ellen Broadhurst
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not what I expected, and not what I thought I wanted, but in the end exactly the book I needed to read. There are no specific health issues in my family now, but my mother died of lung cancer several years ago, and I have thought long and hard about her death, mostly in terms of my own and my families eventual deaths. The greatest gift for me from,this book was less about the five things the author suggests families think about and more about the reality of advocating for your own needs ferventl ...more
Joanne Kelly
May 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
In this classic, Byock works hard to convince us that hospice is a good thing, which I think the US has come to accept over the last 20+ years since he wrote the book. He tells the stories of the dying processes of maybe a dozen different people, each of which illustrates a different point. Byock encourages people to "complete" tasks and relationships while they still can. He believes firmly that dying is an importnat part of living that should generate growth. He also believes firmly that with ...more
Jul 09, 2015 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
Oct 25, 2016 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
Leib Mitchell
Mar 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A good selection of representative examples

Reviewed in the United States on May 30, 2020

This was a good book.

I recommended it be read in conjunction with 2 others:

1. Atul Gawande. "Being mortal."
2. Derek Humphry. "Final Exit."

What those two books offer that this one doesn't:

1. The Gawande book is more current (Byock was written in 1997), and he brings a lot more statistics to bear about average life expectancies and questions that you might ask if you were doing a cost-benefit analysis of whethe
Amy Layton
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at the library by happenstance, and I'm so glad I did. To tell you all a little about my personal life, I had two family members on hospice care, and now I only have one. This is the first time in my life I've had a major death in my family, and in all honesty I think I would have been a little lost without this book.

Byock explains how different people die. While the overt disease is the "leading" cause of death, death usually comes from malnutrition, choking, or lack of ox
Julien Masterson
I've recently been looking up a lot of books on death and dying. I took a Death and Dying class in university and I found it interesting. We will all die, and I wanted to learn more on the process and how our last days on Earth will look like, especially when faced with illness. This book had great reviews so was at the top of my list of books to read. Conclusion, everyone should read it!

Dr. Byock is an expert and has been working in hospice car for like 30 years. In this book, he describes mult
Cody Robinson
Jul 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
This book does have some amazing information and insight into the process of dying and going through all the difficult emotions and hard choices. It is told through multiple stories of people’s experiences and I find that helpful in gaining a feeling of empathy towards the characters and their struggles in a way that allows the reader to relate it to their own experiences. However, it just drags on and on with useless information and is padded with so much fluff I could hardly bring my self to p ...more
Susan Marrier
Dec 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, non-fiction
I think I bought this book for my spouse when he became ill and was in declining health, but he never read it, and neither did I until I started going through and culling books this year. I wish I had read it then; I think his dying would have been so much better than it was. He wasn't in pain, but neither was his end-of-life time enriched as it could have been if I had known how to deal with it. Dr. Byock is obviously a very skilled and caring hospice doctor, and the stories he tells makes one ...more
Lisa Shultz
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: end-of-life
The subtitle of the book "The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life" is what each chapter showed the reader. Dr. Byock was compassionate with each story even when one of the deaths was not what one might consider dying well. The book was published in 1997 and I assume some of the protocols and medications and treatments have evolved since then. I have read some of his more recent books and liked them a bit more. However, this book was well written and is still worth reading if you have interest ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I recently read three books on dying. This one was hands down the best! Dr. Byock illustrates his points about the dying process through poignant stories about dealing with patients and their families through the end stage process. I started this reading because my own mother is terminal and this really helped me to understand not only what she might face, but some of the ways I could work to help her through it. Excellent book!
Laurie R. Whelan
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Every aging adult should read this. Every adult child of an aging adult should read this. For that matter, every adult should read this. Ira Byock is compassionate, knowledgeable, supportive...everything one wants in a physician when faced with a life limiting illness and more.
This is a must read.
This book is not an easy read, exactly, but it is compelling and goes by quickly. I found it very useful in terms of getting ideas for my role at work in ocassionally supporting with people who are dying. Although there were many tears shed, I found a great deal of comfort in these narratives and the possibility for personal growth and development for the entire lifespan. Highly recommended.
Cheryl Goveia
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
This is a beautiful book written by a Hospice doctor who is clearly a writer as well. Each chapter covers his experience with one dying person and how his team worked to help this person come to terms with their situation and die having resolved all sorts of family/relationship issues. It's the first book in my Death Doula program and I hope they're all this profound. ...more
Sue Miller
Nov 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
1) It was helpful to me. I hope to have a healthier attitude as I think of at family involvement with help in inevitable decline with end of life needs.

2) He didn't however, write about the relationship with God as bringing peace when death is approaching. I believe that is a huge part of peace even more than the renewed relationships with family and friends which he does stress.
Sandy White
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who serves the dying

I have read several books on dying over the past two years and this has been the best. The questions at the end with the doctor’s answers are very helpful. For anyone who is considering working with the terminally ill this should be a reference text.
Jun 04, 2022 rated it liked it
Not as compelling or as useful at Gawande's Being Mortal (which I also reread). Byock focuses on stories of people who have "died well," ie, who have completed their lives in a way that feels whole and satisfying. I didn't come away with any strategies that would help me help those I love die well, though I appreciate being asked to think about that goal. ...more
Cora Corley
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have terminal breast cancer

Although my current treatment is allowing me to be relatively stable, this book was full of great information. My Dr is also a Palliative Care Dr & after reading this book I am very grateful for that
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Perfect book for caregivers of the terminally ill. The author is a very compassionate hospice physician who learns the stories of the families of his dying patients, and strives to do everything in his power to give closure and peace to them before they die.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very insightful and heartfelt for the hospice work I do and for the personal work of dying.
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24 likes · 5 comments
“People are inherently dignified, and they are only made undignified if they are placed in situations that are demeaning.” 0 likes
“Even at the very end of life, healing a relationship can transform the history of a family. A relationship that is complete need not end; in this context, complete means there is nothing left unsaid or undone. When a dying person and a loved one come to feel complete between themselves, time together tends to be as full of joy and loving affection as sadness.” 0 likes
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