April 14th, 2015
February 4th, 2015
In a long ago post here,I thanked Ira Byock for all his work to improve end of life care, but after his recent appearance on a Sixty Minutes episode highlighting the end of life planning of Brittany Maynard, I have to say no thanks for this new focus of his work. Byock continues this work in a recent article in the New York Times.
I have witnessed Dr. Byock at the bedside of terminal patients exhibiting utmost caring and impeccable clinical skills. He clearly brings love into his practice, but there is much about him that I can’t figure out. Why is he compelled to speak out against personal choice at the end of life? Why is it not enough to continue the good work of educating doctors and improving conditions for those who are dying? Why pretend that the drugs prescribed by physicians do NOT bring death nearer while alleviating suffering? Why diminish the details of the use of terminal sedation?
After 20 years on the front lines of health care, there is no possibility that the compassionate care Byock advocates will happen for any, but the privileged few who can afford to be cared for in their homes. Those who spend time in medical institutions are certain that there are fates far worse than death; the loneliness of neglect, the boredom of institutionalization, the pain of inadequate attention to basic needs, and the over use of unwanted care that prolongs the inevitable. A question for you Dr. Byock – why must you use your good name to take a paternalistic stance against Death with Dignity that will limit choices ?… choices that will also limit suffering. I just don’t get you…maybe I just don’t want to.
January 20th, 2015
INCREASING AWARENESS OF HOW WE MUST SHAPE OUR OWN END OF LIFE.
Malcolm says, “don’t be a Big Fat Liar.”
I say, “I’ll try not to.”
November 28th, 2014
My greatest joy comes from seeing how contented folks are after Death Cafe. That causes me to believe that the act of speaking on these topics has been easy and comfortable. Hopefully folks take that positivity to the next conversations they have about death. And that will fulfill my hopes that by gaining ease in speaking about death we will be able to tell our loved ones and health care providers what care we DON’T want at the end. We will be able to avoid prolonged suffering and get closer to the “good death” that 80% of Americans say they want – but that only 20% actually achieve since our end of life care is dictated by our hospitals and providers…not by us and our loved ones.
September 15th, 2014
Talking about death makes us better. That’s why I love Death Café.
On Wednesday evening, August 13th, I gathered in the Fox Room of the Rutland Free Library with 33 other folks for Rutland’s Second Death Café. There was no speaker – only two sponsors – Nancy Scarcello and myself. Divided between four tables – we gathered to talk about death. No binding truths were pronounced, but cake was served. According to the Death café website – Death Café’s only objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’. And this is but one way that the Death Cafe experience makes us better.
When we talk about death we are able to listen and learn from the experience of others. Everyone has definitely got a story to tell and Death Cafe has a huge element of storytelling. We can confess that we have never seen someone actively dying, then listen as someone shares a firsthand experience. We can share our own history as a cancer survivor and perhaps change someone else’s mind about conventional medicine. We can hear someone talk about the trials of an aging or diseased body and wonder what we might do if (and when) we are faced with such fear and pain. We are sometimes amazed to hear the conversational tone that is taken when seemingly secret sufferings are discussed. We learn that grief has respite too. We hear anger in the tone of those who feel an entirely other way when telling their story of loss. We learn that feelings about death are so varied that our own thoughts fit comfortably alongside the others. Death Cafe provides a space for us to listen and learn about death and dying.
Death Café is a place where sorrows can be shared. And I have heard that “a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” While laughter can be heard at a typical Death Café there is a reason that each table has a box of tissues as a centerpiece. We can feel free to tell sad stories here; sad stories that are uncomfortably unwelcome to those outside of Death Café. They are somehow more easily revealed to strangers who bear our sadness without the hurt our own loved ones would surely feel if we revealed these same thoughts to them. It is even possible that we will discover an ease in the telling that will make it easier to repeat our death stories to loved ones.
Death Café is an opportunity for kindness. Many of us have heard it said that we should be kind to everyone we meet because we can’t know what burdens others may carry when we encounter them in our world. Death Café presents us with an opportunity to know a bit about the struggles of those who choose to share them. And it is clear that those who did so, felt supported by folks around them. Participants have reported to me that they were encouraged and comforted and felt a need to hear more from fellow humans at Death Café’s in the future.