death


Why I Hope Not to Die at 75

I feel uniquely qualified to comment on Zeke Emanuel’s much-discussed article “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” I’m smack in the middle of the year he hopes will be his last. In addition, many years ago I wrote a book about health care organizational ethics with him (and Steven Pearson). I loved working with […]

Seventy-five Year Old Doctors Talk about Death

Here’s what George Eliot wrote in Silas Marner about how the elderly contemplate the prospect of death: “…it is often observable, that the older a man gets, the more difficult it is for him to retain a believing conception of his own death.” I observed the opposite at my fiftieth medical school reunion in June. […]

Healing from the Death of Loved Ones

This winter, three good friends and four admired colleagues died. As my generation winks out, there is plenty of time at funerals to think about grief and comforting the brokenhearted. It isn’t easy. When death cuts down a life intertwined with mine, I’m depleted. Waves of pain and powerlessness wash over me and weigh me […]

Arnold Relman: 1923 – 2014

Dr. Arnold (“Bud”) Relman died yesterday at 91. He was the most esteemed leader among those who have been dismayed by the commercialization, fragmentation, excessive cost, and relatively poor quality of the U.S. health “system.” In 1980, as editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Bud sounded the alarm about a danger he fought […]

When is a Good, or Tolerable, Time to Die?

As someone who has spent many years writing about end-of-life care, there is one question that has long intrigued me, but it is rarely posed in that context. When is a good, or tolerable, time to die? I do not mean when one is in pain or suffering, which is the way that question usually […]

Writing your Own Eulogy

“Begin with the end in mind.” (From Stephen R. Covey: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic.) Did you ever wonder about the veracity of the eulogies given at funerals? Was this really the same person you thought you once knew? I know, I know. Eulogies are meant to convey the […]

Remembering Sherwin Nuland

The death last week of Dr. Sherwin Nuland, author of the prize-winning 1994 book, How We Die, reminded me of a line in that book “about our society’s denial of the naturalness, even the necessity of death.” Death in an ICU, he wrote, was the “purest form” of that denial, but more broadly he wrote, […]

Pulling the Plug on DNR

Recently, a friend commented that she was not sure whether or not to agree to a “DNR order” for her 90 year-old mother. Her mother has dementia and lives in a nursing home; she is her mom’s health care proxy. Complicating her decision was the knowledge that her mother had chosen a DNR status when […]

Lucretius and Philip Larkin Talk about Death

I hadn’t read Philip Larkin’s stunning poem Aubade until Sissela Bok quoted it in her post about Seamus Heaney. I found Larkin’s evocation of the fear of death especially chilling. What terrifies him is a vision of nothingness, not any belief in an afterlife of torment:

Suicide among the Elderly

In terms of cost savings, suicide among the elderly would be quite effective. Perhaps “suicide panels” would be as successful as the imaginary ”death panels” that caused so much consternation as healthcare reform was being processed. A ready-made theme song for “suicide panels” could be “Suicide is Painless“, the theme song from the hit TV […]