Tuesday, February 06, 2018
With the End in Mind
With the End in Mind:
Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial
By Katherine Mannix
Published by William Collins, December 2017
Katherine Mannix is superbly qualified to write this book, having spent a huge part of her long and distinguished medical career in palliative care, working with people who are dying.
From her first encounters with death as a medical student, then as a junior doctor, she has experienced dealing with patients, their often troubling physical problems as their health deteriorates, their families and all that the dying process entails. Familiarity does not breed contempt, however; rather it breeds sensitivity, compassion, respect, kindness and a respect for those about to undertake the final journey towards death.
Just as no two births or lives are the same, neither are any two deaths identical. They all may share similarities, but dealing with the dying and their loved ones can still produce surprises. Some people are in absolute denial that they are actively dying right up to the point where they lapse into unconsciousness; others request to be kept fully apprised of any changes in their medical conditions in order to plan ahead and prepare themselves and their loved ones.
There is no "right" way of dying and Dr Mannix discusses in some detail how different diseases influence the dying process and stresses that symptoms can almost always be successfully controlled to allow the patient to live as positively as possible until death supervenes.
I cannot find enough words to praise this magnificent book, but simply wish to echo her advice to discuss all these things with your own loved ones, make them aware of your thoughts and wishes and document your wishes. It will make life so much easier for you and for your loved ones when the time comes.
"In sharing the stories of so many ordinary people as they reached
their final days, I hope that I have shown that, in the end, none
of us is ordinary, that each unique individual is extraordinary in
their own way. As we approach the ends of our lives, we experience
a shift in perspective that allows us to focus on the most important
things in our own domain. This shift is both poignant and
freeing, as these stories illustrate. Living is precious, and is perhaps
best appreciated when we live with the end in mind.
It’s time to talk about dying.
I have. Thank you for listening. Now it’s your turn to talk."