Friday, October 17, 2014

Conscious dying - approaching death

In recent discussions with Zen practitioners on dying and death, which is a vital part of practice, I quoted my teacher Soen Nakagawa, "I rarely see someone whose face (and actions) says 'I will die'."  If we do not live this, practice this, our life and practice are all the poorer.

The pieces on this topic by the surgeon  Atul Gawande in New Yorker magazine have been interesting, and his new book “Being Mortal,”which is reviewed in the article link below, looks worthwhile. If you are interested in this, I encourage you to read the review, and if you find it interesting, read the book, as I intend to when I get it.

Here are excerpts from the review:

"One of Dr. Gawande’s most touching examples centers on the final weeks of his daughter’s piano teacher, who was suffering from terminal, untreatable leukemia. Dr. Gawande persuaded her to leave his hospital and try, with his support, hospice home care rather than passively await the future or seek “death with dignity.” With a combination of pain management and thoughtful physical assistance she regained energy and found the zeal, in the six weeks that followed, to give private lessons again. She also enjoyed a recital organized by her pupils, past and present, wherein they could all express their gratitude to her. Three days later she slipped into coma and passed away peacefully. With Dr. Gawande’s help this patient demonstrated what Cicely Saunders, the physician-nurse founder of hospice care in the 1950s, repeatedly asserted: “Last days need not be lost days.”

"...By making a forceful case for palliative care and hospice services—with their capacity to sustain life’s quality out to the end—“Being Mortal” provides a response to the presumptions of despair that fuel the euthanasia movement."      

Here is another review: