Ira Byock, MD is Director of Palliative Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire and a Professor of Anesthesiology and Community & Family Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School.
Dr. Byock has authored numerous articles on the ethics and practice of hospice, palliative and end-of-life care. His first book, Dying Well, (1997) has become a standard in the field. His most recent book, The Four Things That Matter Most, (2004) is used as a counseling tool widely by palliative care and hospice programs, as well as within pastoral care.
Dr. Byock has been a consistent advocate for the voice and rights of dying patients and their families. He has been the recipient of the National Hospice Organization’s Person of the Year (1995), the National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship’s Natalie Davis Spingarn Writers Award (2000), the American College of CHEST Physicians Roger Bone Memorial Lecture Award (2003) and the Outstanding Colleague Award (2008) of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.
Question: Are we adequately dealing with the death in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Ira Byock: No, I think we are in denial about the death that comes from more, also and that’s some of that has been deliberated, we don’t see the caskets coming home, the flag draped caskets, and we see wounded that’s but we mostly see wounded vets on the evening news, around human stories about their remarkable progress or prosthetic devices or around some of the problems that they are dealing with in post-traumatic stress or brain post-traumatic brain injury syndromes.
The death is still seen as tragic and again we hero-itize it to some extent so that we make it romantic. Death is hard, it’s messy, and it’s inherently painful, and I still think we are sequestering it. It’s easy to talk about, easier to talk about policy than the human side of all of this.