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The End-of-Life HandbookReview - The End-of-Life Handbook
A Compassionate Guide to Connecting with and Caring for a Dying Loved One
by David B. Feldman and S. Andrew Lasher
New Harbinger, 2008
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H.
Jan 6th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 2)

The End-of-Life Handbook pithily addresses an array of issues, relating to end of life care.  Coauthor Dr. David B. Feldman is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology, at Santa Clara University; remaining coauthor Dr. S. Andrew Lasher, Jr. is the Director of Palliative Medicine, at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, CA.  An important lesson imparted by this instructive book is that, with respect to many questions raised by end of life care, there are no "right" or "wrong" answers.  But the plain English styled writing efforts of Feldman and Lasher, Jr. have resulted in a relatively informal text characterized prominently by informativeness and practicality.  For caregivers to persons with advanced illness, the information and practical advice suffusing the pages of this sobering book may helpfully heighten the level of clarity regarding many issues germane to connecting with and caring for their dying loved ones.

The structural configuration distinctly shaping the book commences each of the twelve chapters with a brief story, raising a key issue importantly relevant to end of life care.  And then, in the remaining pages of a chapter, Feldman and Lasher, Jr. add substantive flesh to the bones of the anecdotally raised pivotal issue, in the forms of pertinently helpful information and sagely practical advice.  This is the basic blueprint followed carefully by Feldman and Lasher, Jr. over the course of the book.  The information and advice proffered by Feldman and Lasher, Jr. is put to paper in a manner exhibiting typically forthrightness, tinged considerably by sensitivity, as well as relatively even handed attempts to unravel knotty issues.

Occasional "EXERCISES" interspersed in the various chapters comprise further structural appendages joined to the textual body.  As designed, the EXERCISES embedded in the body of the text may have considerable practical value, albeit they must actually be done, and be done in thoughtful, frankly honest fashion.

A dose of referenced material is injected into the book's corpus, but the injected amount is relatively minimal.  In this vein, a listing of "References" adjoins the text.

In a similar vein, tethered to the book's far end is a listing of "Resources" (enveloping books and websites), pertinent to end of life care.

Painting with a rather broad brush, Feldman and Lasher, Jr. cover a wide (although not comprehensive) swath of issues in the field of end of life care.  The wide spanning panorama of issues broached by Feldman and Lasher, Jr. reaches to medical, quasi medical, and non medical issues.  Indeed, the educational value of the book may have been enhanced further if it had been structured as an edited collection of papers, contributed by experts with different strands of expertise tied commonly to end of life care.

Particular, substantive topics engaging the discerning discourse of Feldman and Lasher, Jr. extend to:  understanding and coming to terms with a diagnosis of serious medical illness; different types of healthcare professionals; various illnesses, and treatment options; choosing the "right' place for a person to die; and physical changes and awareness at the end of life.  Also falling within the intellectual ken of Feldman and Lasher, Jr. are such topics as:  "normal" emotions to feel, when a loved one is dying; what to say to a dying loved one; advance directives, wills, and funeral arrangements; "forgiveness"; spiritual related aspects of dying; and grieving.

It is important for the prospective reader to understand that answers to many questions, affecting end of life care, are deeply personal in nature.  Also, the body of knowledge relevant to end of life care continues to evolve,  thus necessitating an ongoing need for up to date information.  Critical readers may add that the book's relative informality, the relatively rudimentary nature of the textual substance, and the not inconsiderable amount of anecdotal information presented combine to dilute the potency of the book's strength, from a formal academic perspective.

But the rich abundance of information and advice offered by Feldman and Lasher, Jr. may be very helpful, in a practical way, to seriously ill persons and to those caring for them.  The practical counsel and informative discourse of Feldman and Lasher, Jr. may also potentially have much edifying value for an expansive gamut of professionals working in the realm of end of life care, including:  palliative care specialists, gerontologists,  bereavement counselors, hospice workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, social workers, chaplains, oncologists, medical ethicists, family physicians, and healthcare lawyers.

© 2009 Leo Uzych

Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.


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