Book Review: The Art of Dying Well

Mar 2, 2020 | 0 comments

The paperback version of Katy Butler’s book, The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life, was recently released. Here’s a short video book review by Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death®.

The Art of Dying Well Book Review

The book is divided into chapters that trace the arc of our lives as we approach old age and frailty.

  • INTRODUCTION: The Lost Art of Dying
  • CHAPTER 1: Resilience – what to do as we are getting older, but are still able to bounce back from medical issues.
  • CHAPTER 2: Slowing Down – recognizing the changes in our bodies and making adjustments to make the most of life.
  • CHAPTER 3: Adaptation – how to make changes when it becomes apparent that our bodies are breaking down and elders are becoming increasingly dependent on others for help with daily life.
  • CHAPTER 4: Awareness of Mortality – reacting to a terminal diagnosis in ways that helps the patient redefine hope, stay in charge, and give life meaning.
  • CHAPTER 5: House of Cards – at this point in aging toward death, many elements of health can come crashing down. Trips to the hospital may become frequent. Butler introduces the POLST/MOLST, Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment. The allows the patient to dictate different levels of care: comfort care, minimal treatment, limited treatment, or “do everything possible.”
  • CHAPTER 6: Preparing for a Good Death – here Butler helps the reader understand steps to take to face the end with grace.
  • CHAPTER 7: Active Dying – if you have never seen a person die, Butler shares stories of good deaths in different settings, such as at home, in a nursing home, and in the hospital.
  • CONCLUSION: Toward a New Art of Dying – brings together new trends that can help us transition gracefully.

The book also includes a glossary of terms and plentiful resources.

The Art of Dying Well book cover

Imagine a world where we have some guidance from our loved ones, not if but when that medical emergency comes and you are with your loved one in the Emergency Room. The doctor is looking at you and saying, “What do you want to do?”

Knowing what your loved ones would want is such a gift. I know because when my father-in-law was hospitalized at the age of 82, his Advance Medical Directives said “no heroic measures.” We admitted him on palliative care. This allowed him to have a very good death, with all of his family there.

Read the Art of Dying Well by Katy Butler. Take the advice in this book to heart. It’s an excellent guidebook toward a good end of life.

A Good Goodbye