Ira Byock, MD

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Ira Byock, MD
author of Dying Well

The Best

Care Possible


a NEW BOOK by Ira Byock, MD

A doctor on the front lines of hospital care illuminates one of the most important and controversial ethical issues of our time.

Dr. Ira Byock, one of the foremost palliative-care physicians in the country, argues that how we die is among the biggest national crises facing us today.

In addressing the sorry state of dying in America, politics has trumped reason. Dr. Byock explains that to ensure the best possible care for those we love—and eventually ourselves—we must not only remake our healthcare system, we must also move past our cultural aversion to talking about dying and acknowledge the fact of mortality once and for all. In so doing, we can live emotionally authentic, healthier, and more joyful lives.

Dr. Byock describes what palliative care really is, and—with a doctor’s compassion and insight—puts a human face on the issues by telling richly moving, heart-wrenching, and uplifting stories of real people during the most difficult moments in their lives. 

Byock takes us inside his busy, leading-edge academic medical center to show what the best care through the end of life can look like and how doctors and nurses can profoundly shape the way families experience loss.



Early Praise for The Best Care Possible

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NEW....In The Media


Ira Byock, M.D., Responds to Compassion & Choices

October 24, 2014    As a physician who takes care of seriously ill people, I am distressed by the assertion that I have somehow attacked Brittany Maynard by disagreeing with Compassion & Choices. This is simply not true.

As father of two daughters in their thirties, I am sincerely touched by Brittany Maynard's situation and my heart goes out to her at this most difficult time in her life.

I fully recognize Brittany Maynard's autonomy and, as I have said, do not believe she is being coerced. She has a right to speak out on this controversial issue of social policy. I hope that she and others can respect my right to disagree on that issue.

It is time to change the conversation. We should be talking about the public health crisis that is well documented in the Institute of Medicine's recent report Dying in America, which shines a light on the excessive medical treatments and inattention to sick people's pain and personal suffering that is persistent in the U.S. health system today, as well as the scant social support that many seriously ill people and their families experience. Giving doctors the authority to write lethal prescriptions does not fix any of the deep-seated deficiencies of medical education, perverse financial incentives, and woefully inadequate nursing home staffing that contribute to suffering for many thousands of people.

Physician-assisted suicide fixes none of these. Instead, it is a sad capitulation to our failures as a health care system and society.

I don't expect Compassion & Choices to be swayed by my statements. We live in a diverse American society that was built on valuing and respecting a broad spectrum of preferences and beliefs.

However, death awaits us all, so while we continue to vigorously disagree over the issue of physician-assisted suicide, let's do so in a civil way.

My goal is to work together to fix how we care for seriously ill people and commit to giving each and every person the best care possible through the end of life.

Ira Byock, M.D., is chief medical officer of the Institute for Human Caring at Providence Health & Services and professor of medicine and community & family medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. He is the author of seminal books on palliative care and end-of-life decisions, including Dying Well, The Four Things That Matter Most and The Best Care Possible.

Print Version

The Diane Rehm Show
New Efforts To Expand Options For Terminally Ill Patients
Ira Byock, MD
The Diane Rehm Show, Oct 23, 2014

CBS 60 Minutes
Ending Life
Ira Byock, MD
CBS 60 Minutes, Oct 19, 2014

PBS The NewsHour
Should terminally ill patients be able to choose when they die
Ira Byock, MD
PBS The NewsHour, Oct 14, 2014

The New York Times
Room for Debate: Expanding the Right to Die - It Violates Medical Principles and Is Dangerous

Ira Byock, MD
New York Times Online Edition, Oct 6, 2014

CBS 60 Minutes
The Cost of Dying: End of Life Care
Ira Byock, MD
CBS 60 Minutes, Nov 22, 2009


Other books authored by Dr. Byock

10th Anniversary Edition
The Four Things That Matter Most
Simon & Schuster / Atria, June 2014
Dying Well: The Prospect of Growth at the End-of-Life
Putnam / Riverhead, 1997
Palliative and End-of-Life Pearls 
Co-authored with John E.Heffner, MD 
Hanley and Belfus, Inc., 2002
A Few Months to Live: Different Paths to Life's End     
Co-authored with Jana Staton and Roger Shuy, Georgetown University Press, 2001