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Celebrating the 20th Anniversary
Sounding a Call to Action!
Dying Well
The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life
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 was 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
“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
“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