Books – Overview

Dying Well

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary! Sounding a Call to Action!

 Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life

Dying Well 20th Anniversary Flyer 2017

In 1997, too many Americans were dying in hospitals, often in pain, often alone. Progress has been made in alleviating pain and expanding hospice and palliative care for people nearing the end of their lives. Yet, even today, too many people are dying badly! The stories in Dying Well enable readers to imagine that wellbeing is possible through these most difficult times of life. This book remains as vital and valuable to individuals and their families today as it did when it was first published.

“The wisdom embedded in Dying Well is every bit as relevant today as when Byock first put pen to page twenty years ago.” —Professor Harvey Chochinov, author of Dignity Therapy

“Dr. Ira Byock was one of the earliest voices calling for crucial change in the way we treat the dying. On the 20th anniversary of Dying Well, we find ourselves with a long way still to go, making its lessons as relevant today as they were at first publication. This groundbreaking book is a classic that should be on everyone’s bookshelf, whether patient, family, or physician. The twelve case histories described in Dying Well provide readers with necessary insights to guide them through this challenging passage. Dr. Ira Byock, a mentor to this movement, remains a critical and brilliant voice for change.” —Jessica Nutik Zitter, MD, MPH, author of Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life

“Before Being Mortal and When Breath Becomes Air, there was (and remains) Ira Byock’s prescient and unforgettable Dying Well. With the deep sensitivity of Abraham Verghese and the profound humanism of Atul Gawande, Ira Byock’s Dying Well remains the ‘go to’ guidebook for all mortals and their loved ones. After 20 years, this classic remains required reading for all patients, medical students, doctors, nurses, and anyone that will face mortality, in other words, required reading for all humanity.” —Angelo Volandes, MD, MPH, co-founder & President ACP Decisions

“This book is more relevant than ever. The country has been primed by more attention being paid to how we die, and at the same time to the ills of our healthcare system. Ira shows us how much better things could be. Not with exotic knowledge or more information, but by doing what we already know how to do. Given the nature of the subject, that means that Ira’s counsel has the power to affect every single one of us. Thrilling and daunting too, I realize, but far better than the alternative! And, thanks to Ira, we have a playbook.” —BJ Miller, M.D. senior advisor to the Zen Hospice Project

“Ira Byock’s book Dying Well was a remarkable and path-breaking book when it was first published 20 years ago. Since then it has remained the gold standard of books teaching us how to live deeply to the end. He is a truly humane guide speaking warmly to a country that is just now beginning to break the taboo and needs to talk meaningfully about living and dying well.” —Ellen Goodman, co-founder and Director of The Conversation Project

“Dr. Byock’s profound insight into living and dying has been a source of strength and practical approaches for thousands of people. This powerful book about his work and wisdom reveals what it means to die well. It is written by the most renowned clinician in the end-of-life care field.” —Rev. Joan Jiko Halifax, author of Being with Dying

“Dying Well has never been more relevant. We live in a society that still is in need the medicine Dying Well prescribes: compassion, wisdom, connection and the relief of suffering. Ira’s words are a balm for how to live and die with respect and dignity.” —Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison, Co-Founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care and author and editor of Awake at the Bedside.

“I was death-naive before I read Dr. Ira Byock’s book, Dying Well when my father was in his early 80s and in his final, painful decline. It introduced me to the possibility that with appropriate support, dying did not have to be a chaotic, fear-ridden and painful experience. In fact, families could be well-supported and death could even be meaningful. I found it immensely reassuring, informative and helpful when I was beginning my research for Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Dying Well, since its first publication, has, opened a door in our culture and allowed people to stop pretending death doesn’t exist and instead explore the meaning and practices of good dying. We have so much further to go until we give all Americans a chance for a humane and sacred passage from life to death. Dr. Byock’s work has opened up many people, family by family, to options they didn’t know were possible.” —Katy Butler, author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door and A Good End of Life (forthcoming in 2018.)

“Through masterfully crafted stories Dr. Ira Byock’s book Dying Well broke new ground upon its initial release in 1997 by portraying the transformational message that death can be peaceful and beautiful when well managed. His words were an inspiration to me then, a hospice physician seeking a mentor for my new role tending to both life and death for my patients. Dr. Byock’s vision of living and dying well is needed now more than ever as we still struggle to provide better care to the dying and to create a new societal attitude toward death. Dying Well is not only a guidebook for navigating the end of life, but also a case study for medical providers in caring for the entire lifecycle of our patients. Read Dying Well for the first time or read it again to recall the uplifting message that growth is always possible, even in the most hopeless of situations—a message that speaks as deeply to each of us now as in the past.” —Karen Wyatt, MD, author of What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying

“The field of palliative care has grown exponentially with more than 68% of hospitals with greater than 50 beds having a palliative care program and with the expansion of palliative care services into the outpatient and community programs. But the challenges to patients’ accessing palliative care remain and millions of people with serious illness do not receive the care they need. We need them to demand such care by learning about palliative care and how it is associated with a better quality of life, and a true value based care program. That is why Dying Well is even more relevant today that when it was published. It offers a way forward for the public to engage in talking about dying that gives them the opportunity to learn what is possible and understand that they can make choices in their medical care to enhance their quality of life living as fully as possible and dying well.” —Kathleen M. Foley, M.D., The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Chair

Dying Well

Ira Byock’s first book, Dying Well (Riverhead/Putman, 1997),  has become a standard in the field of hospice and palliative care. Read More…




The Best Care Possible

The Best Care Possible

His most recent book, The Best Care Possible (Avery/Penguin, March 2012), tackles the crisis that surrounds serious illness and dying in America and his quest to transform care through the end of life. It has been praised by the Wall Street Journal, the Economist and other major publications, and won the Annual Books for a Better Life Award in the category of Wellness. Read more…


Cover - 10th Anniv. Ed. The Four Things That Matter Most

The Four Things That Matter Most

His second book, The Four Things That Matter Most (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2004),
is used as a counseling tool widely by palliative care and hospice programs, as well as within pastoral training.  Read more…


Other Books Co-authored and Co-edited by Ira Byock

PearlsPalliative and End-of-Life Pearls Co-authored with John E.Heffner, MDHanley and Belfus, Inc., 2002 fewmonths_smallA Few Months to Live: Different Paths to Life’s End Co-authored with Jana Staton and Roger Shuy, Georgetown University Press, 2001