Book review by Mary Jordan, author of ‘The Essential Carer’s Guide’ and ‘The Essential Carer’s Guide to Dementia’, of ‘When the Time Comes: Stories from the end of life‘ by Dr Magnolia Cardona and Nurse Ebony Lewis.
This is a very thought-provoking book. It is a collection of short stories about actual experiences of dying and end of life care. Because each story is told by a different individual we hear from many viewpoints and cultures but the emotion which comes most often to mind is the general feeling of dissatisfaction experienced with standard medical attention at end of life.
Mostly the people relating these accounts to do not blame those medical professionals concerned at the end of these lives. But they do wish generally that things could be managed better. One of the problems in our civilisation is that hospitals and doctors are not seen as helping to make death a more comfortable experience. Doctors and hospitals are concerned with curing illness and bringing people back to health and this means that many of us at end of life get carried along by the medical path that is concerned with ‘trying one more treatment’ or tackling one more crisis. For example, we are told about a patient who is ‘ready to go’ but who continues to ‘endure the efforts of a health system determined to do all they can to keep him here’.
What we seldom have at this stage is the time to take a step back and consider the options.
Ideally this thinking would be done before the crisis arises and indeed this book advocates thinking ahead and giving time to planning our own end of life as well as helping our loved ones to do the same. Each account in the book ends with a few questions which can form the basis of considering end of life, looking at many different practical and ethical points.
I would perhaps like to have seen a little more room given in the stories to people who are not yet ‘ready to go’ and who do want every effort to be made to keep them in this life but over all that is not what the book is meant to be about. The points about having a good quality end of life experience and about communicating your wishes in this respect to those around us are very well made.
This is a book well worth reading and using as a discussion focus with those you love best.