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Dying Well

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,006 ratings  ·  109 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, 320 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Riverhead Books (first published January 13th 1997)
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Average rating 4.35  · 
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 ·  1,006 ratings  ·  109 reviews

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Caidyn (NO LONGER ACTIVE; he/him/his)
I can see why this book is such a classic in the community. While I never read it when I did my hospice internship, I can see why people talked about it so much. It's a very good beginner's book for people who want to start talking or thinking about this topic. I've read other, more recent books, on the topic that I enjoyed much more, but this is still a solid one that opens your mind up to it all.
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, wellness
Wow, I learned a lot from this book. Mostly, I'm surprised by two things: 1) that you don't have to be in pain when you die, and 2) that so much healing is possible in the last few weeks and months of life. I'm not looking to die any time soon, but this book did help me feel a lot more calm about the process.
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 A good conversation starter, but yeah, outdated.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Jules 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
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
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.
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.
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
While this subject matter is a difficult one this book was an easy read. Not too technical. Flows well and really helped me understand what people in hospice experience. Well written.
Sarah Miller
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Every human should read this!
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and moving, I found this book helpful in navigating a recent diagnosis.
Michael Connolly
Feb 17, 2012 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
Laura V.
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written by an ER doctor turned hospice doctor, Dr. Ira provides a template for families to discuss end of life care decisions that go beyond the scope of medical care alone. He addresses finding meaning in the process, healing relationships, and presents dying as a period of time that should not be feared but seen as an opportunity to complete the life cycle in a positive way.

A book on dying probably seems macabre to many Americans because it's a topic we're uncomfortable with. But dying is a hu
Mar 29, 2012 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 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
Jul 27, 2016 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 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
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