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With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial

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Dying is made special in this book because it is given back its precious highly emotionally charged as well as matter of fact place in life. It is written by Kathryn Mannix, a palliative care doctor, who shares a collection of stories about some of the patients she has cared for. The author's purpose in this book is to demystify dying and let people know that it doesn't have to be all that unpleasant. Yet in her desire to show that death can be well managed, she leaves out the mess, fear, pain and unpredictability of so much dying – its scandal, its wildness and its impossibility. I agree with almost everything Mannix says; I would like her, or someone like her, to be my compassionate, wise doctor when I lie dying, easing me out when my time has come.

It sounds kind of harsh, yet one out of forty chapters made me lower my general score with one star. And secondly, Mannix and all of the wider NHS staff that we meet along the way are nearly all calm and happy and lovely. You will meet Holly, who danced her last day away; Eric, the retired head teacher who, even with Motor Neurone Disease, gets things done; loving, tender-hearted Nelly and Joe, each living a lonely lie to save their beloved from distress; and Sylvie, 19, dying of leukaemia, sewing a cushion for her mum to hug by the fire after she has died. This was a book to take in slowly, chapter per chapter, intimate and tender story per intimate and beautifully written story. This book may well not be for everyone however it tackles very difficult subjects with great gentleness.One of her patients was a mother who still feels that she needs to keep up her glamorous appearance, but pouring herself into tight jeans was not helping with the pain; a few subtle changes helped immensely and allowed to be comfortable in the final days. Mannix's sincere loving care and compassion radiate from the pages of this beautifully written account of her daily life, professional training, clinical practice and most of all, fragile patients.

Due to the issues involved in one story the book also looks briefly at the legalities and ethics involved in dealing with patients who are approaching the end of life. Dr Mannix demystifies and humanizes the experience of death for her patients, their families, and especially her readers, as people who have or very likely will care for a dying person, and will ultimately succumb to death themmselves.This book is a beautiful collection of stories and reflections about dying, written by a palliative care doctor.

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