Video: Dying with Ease Interview with Dr. Jeff Spiess

Jan 21, 2021 | 0 comments

Dying with Ease book coverIn this “Books to Die For” interview, Dr. Jeff Spiess, author of the book Dying with Ease: A Compassionate Guide for Making Wiser End-of-Life Decisions, talks with Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death.

Among the topics discussed:

  • The history of hospice
  • Autonomy cases related to end-of-life: Karen Ann Quinlan and Terri Schiavo
  • A though experiment on what it’s like to die and understanding loss
  • Medical aid-in-dying and suffering
  • Finding meaning in life and death

Jeff Spiess, MD, spent his medical career caring for those facing serious illness and death, first as an oncologist in the 1980s, then as a hospice physician. He has been recognized as a leader in his field. He is “mostly” retired as associate director of Hospice of the Western Reserve in the Cleveland area.

“I got into the field because of science and fascination with the disease processes. I stayed in the field because of cancer patients,” said Dr. Spiess. “Getting to know and learning from these people who were going through life-threatening, horrible diseases, I learned so much from them. For me, taking care of cancer patients meant taking care of them until the end.”

Watch the Video Interview

Dying with Ease Jeff Spiess

Interview Highlights

Why he wrote the book: “I’m convinced that one of the big reasons we don’t die well in this country is that we don’t recognize that we are mortal. I think the docs are probably worse than a lot of other people…. If we recognized that we were mortal, that we were going to die — that the most common cause of death is being alive — that we would make better choices, not only for planning the end of our lives, which is vital, but also that that can inform the rest of our lives. One thing the dying taught me was that learning how to die was teaching them how to live, and they were sad that they were only learning this just then.”

On medical aid-in-dying: “When when this became an issue, I was against it. I thought this is not what medicine is about. Now, I’m absolutely convinced that this needs to be available as an option for some people. I think the Oregon experience of over 20 years has shown that all the worries about slippery slopes, about somebody deciding that grandma’s not worth keeping around anymore, Death Panels that got talked about X years ago, is not happening. It’s a well designed program, it respects people being able to live their lives the way they want to. One thing that’s fascinating to me about the medical aid-in-dying issue is the number of people who get the prescription, but don’t use it, because they know that, “Okay if I have to, I can do it.” And that is tremendous autonomy.

Takeaway message about death: “Plan for it. Get as much done ahead of time as you can…. Having the real conversations with your family or your decision maker gets you in touch with that emotional level, and then pay attention to that emotional level. And work with it. It’s not scary. Well, it’s scary before you start. But once you’re doing it, you find out, “Yeah, this is stuff I didn’t want to think about,” but it’s all about who we are as human beings.”

More Information

Learn more about Dr. Spiess, upcoming events and the book at The book is available on Amazon (affiliate link): You can also peruse other products and books about end-of-life issues in the A Good Goodbye “Stuff to Die For” Online Store.

A Good Goodbye