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How Doctors Can Help the Dying

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In 1994 the prestigious medical journal The Lancet advocated acting lessons for medical students so they "could at least act as if they cared." Thankfully the act is becoming real.

This article appeared in the Fall 2000 issue of Spirituality & Health. The call came in the middle of the night, just as I’d always imagined it would. I stood by my father’s hospital bed while a physician I’d never met explained the situation. But this kind doctor chose his words carefully, sparing me the Latin and the word death, and his eyes held mine in an unbroken gaze, intently monitoring my state. I borrowed his steadiness, grateful for it, and held my young daughter close. Our family was fortunate. Earlier medical crises had pushed my parents to anticipate vital end-of-life decisions, creating the blessing of a clear space. But the good doctor also helped enormously, and such help is becoming more common. Thanks to a strong adverse reaction to the cold medicalization of death, innovative physicians are setting new standards for humane end-of-life care that addresses physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Interested physicians, allied healthcare professionals, and non-professionals gather each spring at the annual Art of Death and Dying Conference in New York City to learn from these p …

Pamela Miles is a complementary health practitioner in New York City. She has written on complementary medicine for Yoga Journal and the New York Daily News.


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