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4.7 out of 5 stars
Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life
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188 of 194 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2000
This book is one of those rare works that combines passionate engagement with a universal issue, artful storytelling, and clinical expertise. The author allows each of the patients he describes to bless him, and thereby to bless the reader. Dying, the author argues, is not simply a holding pattern between life and death. It is a vital developmental time that holds infinite possiblities for deepening, learning to love, serving one another both as caregiver and receiver of care, and simply learning to "be" after what often has been a lifetime of mechanistic "doing." Such possibility is created when simple principles of Hospice are honored. Pain must be absolutely controlled. The patient (and the family) must be tenderly companioned. Such care, the author convinces us, is a privilege, a holy time in which human beings gather together in the face of Mystery in all of its agony and joy and wonder and transcendent meaning. We can only create human community, the author suggests, when we are willing to simultaneously look death in the face and to remain open to the gift of healing. I closed the book more alive, more thankful, less fearful, and more curious about the prospect of the adventures ahead.
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115 of 117 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2000
I'm the kind of person whose eyes start to glaze over if I try to absorb more than a few pages of social science/self help type writing. I was steered to this book when I was helping my mother as she died. I had so little experience with death that I worried about doing the wrong thing. As I read the stories I was drawn in, absorbing each small "message" with each story. One, about a man whose final gift to his family was to allow them to help him as he died, touched me so deeply I read it to my mother in her last days. I wish I'd read this book earlier but I don't think it could ever be too late.
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99 of 101 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2005
When I was quite young, with a pre-teen stepdaughter, my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was ill for the duration of my stepdaughter's adolescence. I sought vainly for guidance about caring for a loved one whose life is ebbing slowly away. Nobody ever told me a dying person might be angry or might lash out at those with whom he was most close. Now that I've read Dr. Ira Byock's "Dying Well," I understand. According to Dr. Byock, founding member of one of the most extensive hospice and palliative care groups in the United States, those with serious illnesses may lash out from pain, or from a sense that they have lost their dignity, the ability to *do.* Men and women who have devoted their healthy lives to caring more about others than about themselves feel equally angry and often humiliated. Caregivers and patients alike lack vocabulary for the entirely new language--verbal and non-verbal--of dying. Indeed, it may be a language we don't want to learn any more than the seriously ill person wants to face the unknown ahead. From his decades of hospice and palliative care, Ira Byock selects specific family groups to illuminate responses to illness, pain, and death. He details the attitudes, behaviors, and methods to preserve dignity through accurate assessment of discomfort and pain. He shows us how to listen. "Dying well" provides a narrative and vocabulary to ease our linguistic and emotional awkwardness. Byock's book belongs in every medical and home health care facility, counseling office, and home library.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
I was overwhelmed with the task of helping my dear friend in the last 11 months of her life. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer and asked me for help to die "a good death." I had no experience in end-of-life issues but wanted to help her in any way I could. I was frequently overwhelmed by it all. Most of the books I found on the topic were too long or too difficult to read during this emotional time. When I found Dr. Ira Byock's book, Dying Well, I finally felt like I had a friend to support me. Each of his stories helped me in a different way. Having this book in my library has served as a valuable resource many times. If you're not up to reading the whole thing, the Question and Answer Section at the end is worth the price of the book.

Judy K. Underwood, Ph.D., Author, Dying: Finding Comfort and Guidance in a Story of a Peaceful Passing, [...]
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2000
Anyone who is or could be a caregiver or patient needs to read this book. A good death is indeed an achievable goal but it is one that requires the active assistance of patient and family if it is to be achieved in this day and age. The medical community does not take the time to present the required information that people need to make informed decisions. This book does the job for them.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 1999
This wonderful book approaches the process of dying using individual case vignets which illustrate the essence of the book: no one need die in pain. Dr. Byock outlines care available to terminal patients, both through hospice and palliative medical options. He addresses the subject with regard to both dying persons and those who love and care for them. One purpose of Dr. Byock's book is stated to be to be an effort to elevate dialogue from that of painful death vs. euthanasia to painful death vs. non-painful death. He shows that, through the specialty of Palliative Medicine, consideration of euthanasia becomes unnecessary. This is the first book I've read (Kubler-Ross, Stephen Levine, etc.) that gives specific information regarding how to assist people in the process of dying by making available physical, emotional and psychic support. Anyone facing death (and aren't we all?) will sleep better knowing that they and they're loved ones can die comfortably with the help of the medical community and hospice. This is a "must have" book for anyone pondering life's end.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 1999
I first heard Dr. Byock interviewed on the Diane Ream(?sp) show on NPR when his book was just out. I knew I had to read it for myself and I was not disappointed. The way the information about how things can be handled in a supportive respectful way for all of those involved at the end of life is the best written guide for many of the difficult situations out in the real world that I have found. If we would take advantage of this kind of informed material and spread the good news that death and dying are not to be feared but that we can be helped through it to the benefit of our own well-being and at the same time relieving the suffering of those who are in the last stages of this life, the support for "assisted suicide" would be revealed as the feeble sham that it is. Hospice is a poorly understood and underutilized organization which deserves a second look as well as our support both in time and resources. I had to read this book in small "doses" to take it all in and it was well worth the effort! CF
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 1999
As I was struggling through the final months of my mother's life, I stumbled across this inspired book. At some points it was so brutally honest and raw in its assessment of death and hospice issues that I could barely read on, but I felt compelled to. Byock has a rare and valid perspective that deserves discussion--preferably before you are faced with the imminent death of a loved one.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2005
I recently stumbled across "Dying Well" in the Hospice Family lounge in an in-patient unit in Indianapolis as I waited for my mother-in-law's "good death." Thanks to the "angels of death" - the hospice staff - she was able to die well (relatively speaking). While she wasn't able to confront all her issues surrounding death and she would not talk about all the unsaid things...she was able to have the pain meds she needed in order to "sleep away" forever. And we were cared for immensely well by the hospice staff. If we had only known about them two years ago when my sister-in-law was dying...she, too, could have had a better death. This book is well-written and easy to read (so to speak) about a topic that most people avoid. I'll be buying extra copies for some friends and peers who I know will read it. Death is something we will all face eventually ... wouldn't it be nice if it wasn't so scary? This book will give you hope that it doesn't have to be.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2005
Bravo to Dr. Byock for writing one of thee most beautiful books pertaining to our final journey in life...death. I wish that I had read it before my beloved mom's death because it would have helped both of us greatly in understanding just what the whole death and dying process is all about.

Readers who love this beautiful book will also love a new publication by Renata Vestevich called "Grant Me My Final Wish:

A personal journal to simplify life's inevitable journey."

This beautifully done journal allows one to prepare for that inevitable day well ahead of time. If you find it difficult to discuss with loved ones just what your final wishes are, this journal simplifies that process for you. It takes you through the entire process of planning for one's death while at the same time it gives you a place to store your precious written, as well as photographic memories. What a wonderful companion book this new publication is to Dr. Byock's magnificent text!!
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