Byock, Ira. Dying Well. 1997.
A collection of moving personal stories written by doctors about their patients edited by a hospice doctor. The author says telling the story of a loved one’s dying can be healing. As he says in his introduction, “I offer this book in the hope that it inspires others to tell their stories.” Riverhead Books.
Dunn, Hank. Hard Choices for Loving People. 2001.
In this booklet which has been reprinted many times, a chaplain provides a clear explanation of the various treatments, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and artificial feeding, that dying patients may choose to accept or reject. A & A Publishers, Inc. 43608 Habitat Circle, Lansdowne, VA 20176-8254.
Gawande, Atul. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. 2014.
The author of this New York Times best seller, a practicing surgeon, tells stories about his patients and his own family to show how modern medicine can harm patients by subjecting them to unnecessary, painful treatments rather than providing palliative care. He calls for doctors to see their role with elderly patients as providing care, not necessarily cure. Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt.
Jenkins, Margie. You Only Die Once: Preparing for the End of Life with Grace and Gusto. 2002.
In a friendly, informal style, the author offers advice on numerous aspects of preparing for death. Includes not only the obvious, such as having a will and planning for distribution of cherished possessions but also writing your own bio and maybe having a going-away party.
Balcony Publishing, Georgetown, TX 78627.
Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death & Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy & Their Own Families. Foreword by Ira Byock, M.D. 2014.
This is the updated edition of the path-breaking work describing five stages experienced by dying patients that sparked a cultural movement to improve end-of-life care. The original, published in 1969, set a pattern for books by doctors who tell stories of their patients and say they’ve come to realize that those who are dying need to be able to talk about it and be listened to. Scribner
Mitford, Jessica. The American Way of Death Revisited. 1998.
Jessica Mitford died shortly before publication of this updated version of her 1963 best seller that excoriated the funeral industry. This edition retains the muck-raking style and biting humor that made the original so readable, and shows that, 35 years later, funeral homes and cemeteries were still gouging vulnerable survivors by, for example, selling them expensive caskets and insisting on unnecessary services such as embalming. Alfred A. Knopf.
Slocum, Josh and Lisa Carlson. Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death. 2011.
The authors, leaders of the movement to encourage home funerals and natural burial, show that not much has changed since Jessica Mitford stunned America with her muck-raking exposure of the funeral business in 1963. They provide helpful information state-by-state for how readers can find a funeral that fits their needs and their budget. Upper Access Publishing. Available from Funeral Consumers Alliance. Amazon Kindle edition 2014.
Smith, Scott Taylor, with Michael Castleman. When Someone Dies: The Practical Guide to the Logistics of Death. 2013.
A thorough guide to practically every aspect of death you can think of. Brief, clear explanations are grouped by topic such as “Immediately after Death.” It has a detailed table of contents that makes it easy to find advice on particular matters such as “Has the person specified an executor?” and “Pay the mortuary.” Scribner.
Before I Go, You Should Know: My Funeral and Final Plans. Illustrated by Edward Gorey.
Blank forms for recording various kinds of information useful to survivors, such as location of important papers. Available in spiral-bound format for $15.00 from Funeral Consumers Alliance, Inc., 33 Patchen Road, South Burlington, VT 05403. (This publication is more thorough but is similar to the “For My Survivors” form available from Memorial Society of Northern Virginia.)
Your Right to Decide: Communicating Your Health Care Choices. 12 pages. Undated (but revised to reflect changes in state law that took effect in 2009).
The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association produced this set of questions and answers explaining patients’ rights to make decisions about their medical care and telling how to incorporate them in what is called an Advance Directive.
In pdf form for printing. Available from Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, 4200 Innslake Drive, Suite 203, Glen Allen, VA 23060-3307. P. O. Box 31394, Richmond, VA 23294-1394.
July 2016 rsb