A physician reflects on her 30-year practice caring for the dying.
In her deeply compassionate first book, Mannix, a British palliative care specialist and cognitive behavior therapist, takes readers on an illuminating journey through the natural process of dying. Though palliative care is, by definition, the treatment of symptoms and discomfort associated with any serious illness, and not solely focused on individuals who are dying, the author notes that the majority of her patients are in the last months of their lives. She offers a selection of their stories arranged thematically; each provides a full portrait of the individual, often revealing that how they have lived their lives is a key to how they approach their experience of dying. In the first section, “Patterns,” Mannix familiarizes readers with the natural progression of physical symptoms leading to death; here, she includes a discussion of her experience of personal loss. “My Way” reveals the individual coping styles of various patients, ranging from their acceptance or denial of their pending death. “Legacy” touches on ways in which individuals, whether intentionally or not, may choose to create some form of legacy for their loved ones or greater community through actions they take during their final days. For example, a young girl assembles a quilted memory pillow for her mother, and a young man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy helps raise public awareness for his condition by sharing his personal story through several media interviews. “The art of dying has become a forgotten wisdom,” writes Mannix, “but every deathbed is an opportunity to restore that wisdom to those who will live, to benefit from it as they face other deaths in the future, including their own.”
An inspiring book on an always-difficult subject. Though for American readers the care facilities and specific treatments provided in the U.K. may differ, the personal stories will have universal resonance.