The Lost Art of Dying : Reviving Forgotten Wisdom
Author(s): L.S. Dugdale
A Columbia University physician comes across a popular medieval text on dying well written after the horror of the Black Plague and discovers ancient wisdom for rethinking death and gaining insight today on how we can learn the lost art of dying well in this wise, clear-eyed book that is as compelling and soulful as Being Mortal, When Breath Becomes Air, and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
As a specialist in both medical ethics and the treatment of older patients, Dr. L. S. Dugdale knows a great deal about the end of life. Far too many of us die poorly, she argues. Our culture has overly medicalized death: dying is often institutional and sterile, prolonged by unnecessary resuscitations and other intrusive interventions. We are not going gently into that good night—our reliance on modern medicine can actually prolong suffering and strip us of our dignity. Yet our lives do not have to end this way.
Centuries ago, in the wake of the Black Plague, a text was published offering advice to help the living prepare for a good death. Written during the late Middle Ages, ars moriendi—The Art of Dying—made clear that to die well, one first had to live well and described what practices best help us prepare. When Dugdale discovered this Medieval book, it was a revelation. Inspired by its holistic approach to the final stage we must all one day face, she draws from this forgotten work, combining its wisdom with the knowledge she has gleaned from her long medical career. The Lost Art of Dying is a twenty-first century ars moriendi, filled with much-needed insight and thoughtful guidance that will change our perceptions. By recovering our sense of finitude, confronting our fears, accepting how our bodies age, developing meaningful rituals, and involving our communities in end-of-life care, we can discover what it means to both live and die well. And like the original ars moriendi, The Lost Art of Dying includes nine black-and-white drawings from artist Michael W. Dugger.
Dr. Dugdale offers a hopeful perspective on death and dying as she shows us how to adapt the wisdom from the past to our lives today. The Lost Art of Dying is a vital, affecting book that reconsiders death, death culture, and how we can transform how we live each day, including our last.
"Kudos to Dugdale’s The Lost Art of Dying for being honest, refreshing, and useful. As a physician who has experienced many deaths, she helps us think about the meaning of our lives and about how to have a good death. I recommend this book to all who are mortal."
“In this profound and compassionate book about death and its nearness, Dugdale demystifies one of the essential mysteries of our time.”
“Like Atul Gawande and Paul Kalanithi, Dugdale writes fluently about dying from clinical experience. What sets her book apart is that she writes wise words everyone needs to hear as they live. When I lay dying, I hope I will have a doctor like Dr. Dugdale at the bedside.”
“I’m adding this book about dying to my collection of treasured guides to living well. Filling me with illuminating, compelling, and consoling hope, this book, more than any other I have read, reveals how to rediscover the lost art of dying. Read it. Then read it again and again.”
"One of the most avoided questions in life is also one of the most important: what is it like to die? It's a question we will all encounter, no matter what our beliefs about the afterlife. And you will find no more compassionate and knowledgeable guide than Dr. Dugdale, who has accompanied many people on this journey. Her new book is a great gift to all of us who will die or face death, which is to say, all of us."
"This illuminating and thought-provoking book will convince many readers to reexamine their assumptions about death and dying."
“Want a better life? Then think about your death, starting with Lydia Dugdale’s The Lost Art of Dying. Dugdale shows that death should be courageously confronted. In so doing, we not only conquer our fear, but also understand the reason for our lives.”
“Dugdale examines how we have surrendered to the medical machine while surfacing ways we can regain control of key decisions over our quality of life and death. Everyone must read this book, whether you are a health-care professional, a public-policy official, or just hoping to reach an advanced age.”
“In this important new book, Dugdale asks why it is so difficult for patients and families to accept terminal diagnoses and for all of us to recognize our finitude. The solution, Dugdale proposes, is for us to learn about dying now, as part of our living. And she is right.”
“Who would have thought that a book on dying could be so enlivening? But that is precisely Dugdale’s point: if we do not face our deaths, they destroy us before they have happened. A lucid, learned, humane, and utterly necessary book.”
Nautilus Book Award