With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix
Palliative care consultant demystifies death and dying in approachable way with tales of real people
With the End in Mind - Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial
By Kathryn Mannix
William Collins 2017
Reviewed by Philip Winn
When they learn that I am a hospital chaplain people often say that must be a difficult job; meeting so many people who are dying. It seems most people do not like to think about death; as a society we try our best to deny the reality of dying and use terms like passing on to avoid mentioning it. It is, however, something that we all have to deal with and this book aims to dispel some of the mystery surrounding dying.
Katryn Mannix is a palliative care consultant who, working in hospitals and hospices has dealt with patients facing death from many causes. In this book she covers many aspects of death and dying, from the diagnosis of a terminal condition through the practicalities of palliative care the dying process itself (for most people a gentle process) and even the process of a post-mortem. All this is done by telling the stories of many of the patients for whom she has cared.
Dr Mannix tells the stories of 30 of these patients, showing how they and their families coped each in their own way, with the knowledge that life was coming to an end. These accounts are vividly and sympathetically told.
Although each story is self-contained they are grouped together to illustrate different themes; each section is followed by some questions to help the reader reflect on their own experiences and attitudes. The reader is compelled in a very gentle way to think about their own mortality.
There is some exploration of the impact of patients' wider sources of strength and hope in the section on Transcendence, but religious hopes and practices are not dealt with in any detail. The thoughtful reader will, however, consider their own beliefs and values.
I would recommend the book; it demystifies death and dying in a very approachable way with inspiring tales of real people. To get the most from it the reader needs to spend time considering the questions at the end of each section, but one could learn a great deal, and be inspired, just by dipping in to read the one of the stories now and again.
The Revd Philip Winn is Lead Chaplain at Milton Keynes University Hospital and member of St. Giles Church in of the Watling Valley Ecumenical Partnership