Books Overview > Dying Well

Dying Well

The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life

Paperback – ISBN 1-57322-05105
Riverhead Books – Penguin & Putnam Inc. | January 1997 | $15.00

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Readers Guide

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.
  • Katy Butler
    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
    Knocking on Heaven’s Door and A Good End of Life
  • Karen Wyatt
    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
    What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying
  • Harvey Chochinov
    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
    Dignity Therapy
  • Angelo Volandes
    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
  • Ellen Goodman
    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
  • Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison
    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
  • 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
  • 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