Book Talk

March 28th 2022

Join us for an informal conversation about The Lost Art of Dying on Zoom.

A Columbia University physician inspires us to rethink death and offers insights on how we can learn to embrace the 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. Lydia 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. 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 filled with much-needed insight and thoughtful guidance that will change our perceptions. 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.

Part of living well means preparing for the end, Dr. Dugdale reminds us. 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.

Illustrated with 10 black-and-white drawings throughout, The Lost Art of Dying Well is a vital, affecting book that reconsiders death, death culture, and how we can transform how we live each day, including our last.