Through somber stories, a hospice physician shares his experiences of working with people near death, revealing how the dying process can be a time of personal growth. Kearney, medical director of palliative care at Our Lady's Hospice in Dublin, Ireland, argues that the terror of death stems from a split between the rational and intuitive minds. When an individual becomes alienated from his deepest and most fundamental aspect, he says, the result is soul pain. In a series of stories about dying patients, he illustrates how soul pain is manifested and how, using such psychotherapeutic tools as guided imagery, dream work, and prayer, he sometimes is able to relieve that pain. Two models, one mythological and one psychological, provide Kearney's framework. The first is the story of Chiron, a wounded healer in Greek mythology who willingly descended into the underworld of death before achieving immortality in the heavens. The second is a Jungian model, positing that the ego of the surface mind fears and mistrusts the deep mind, or underworld, of the self. As they make their journey toward death, some patients find their own way through soul pain to acceptance and equanimity; many, however, experience overwhelming fear and suffering. Kearney, who stresses that palliative care is always the first step in what he calls ""depth work,"" describes his successes and failures in helping these patients get in touch with their deepest feelings and experience inner transformations that bring them comfort and peace. This is not light reading. All of Kearney's patients have terminal illnesses; there are no miracles and no happy endings--unless a good death can be viewed as one. For those concerned about the growing strength of the assisted-suicide movement, Kearney's approach provides a welcome antidote to that of Dr. Kevorkian. For those curious about the hospice movement, this is a forceful introduction.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996
Page Count: 188
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996
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