How do you want to spend your final moments? Where do you want to die? What if you had to wrestle with these questions today?
Twenty-six states may soon give terminally ill Americans the right to die, but some visionary doctors are exploring other approaches to death that could add more meaning to life.
What is the Art of Dying?
The gathering is part of a larger movement that involves doctors, palliative care professionals, hospice workers, caregivers, social workers and spiritual teachers of various traditions.
Some of the innovators and organizations leading the way include:
- Stephen Ross, the principal investigator in the NYU Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study that is giving drugs to terminal cancer patients and relieving their despair.
- Eben Alexander, a doctor and author whose view of death (and life) was transformed by a near death experience.
- Robert Thurman, a global authority on religion, spirituality and Buddhism, and President of the U.S. Tibet House.
- Judith Kennedy Schwarz,RN, PhD, an advocate in end-of-life care and long-time associate of Compassion and Care, an organization that supports choice and compassion for the dying.
- Thomas Moore, the author of Care of the Soul in Medicine and 20 other books on soul and spirit.
What is a Good Death?
These pioneers envision a new view of death that would transform dying into an experience that could enhance living.
Dr. Ross says ten factors contribute to this notion of a good death, including:
- pain and symptom management
- clear decision making
- preparation for death
- contributing to others
- affirmation of the whole person
- spirituality and meaning at end of life
- life review
- resolution of conflicts
- spending time with family and friends
- time for final dialogues/saying goodbye
Maybe Plato said it best when he said “no one knows whether death, which people fear to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good.”