Why a Life Well Lived Is a Good Death
Dr. Sunita Puri in Conversation with Roxanne Coady on the Just the Right Book Podcast
A lot of times there’s an interview that just sticks in your brain and stays there and pops up periodically. And one of those interviews for us was with Dr. Sunita Puri, who’s an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California and medical director of the Palliative Medicine Unit at Keck Hospital, and the author of That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour, out now in paperback from Penguin Press.
The reason we’re revisiting this conversation this week on Just the Right Book is because we hear too many times about somebody who was diagnosed with cancer or some other life-threatening disease, and a lot of times medical doctors goal is to cure you, even if it kills you. However, what these palliative care doctors do is become your advocate for the notion that a life well-lived is a good death.
From the episode:
Dr. Sunita Puri: I think many of us that choose to go into [palliative medicine] aren’t afraid of what comes up within ourselves. That’s something I’ve noticed with some of my mentors and colleagues I really respect, that we move towards the difficulty, the unacknowledged spaces in medicine, the silences, the things that are not sexy or glamorous but are vital to helping patients live through the thing that each one of us is going to go through.
But we must also move towards the difficulty in ourselves. And let’s face it, the whole trope of a wounded healer. That’s what physicians and caregivers and all sorts of professions are. We come to this work with wounds. The question is, can you reckon with your wounds and even, in fact, use them as a tool to be a better doctor, to be a more present person? Because I think what my patients are asking of me is not just my doctor’s knowledge; it’s my humanity.
Dr. Sunita Puri is an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California, and medical director of palliative medicine at the Keck Hospital and Norris Cancer Center. She has published essays in The New York Times, Slate, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and JAMA-Internal Medicine. She lives in Los Angeles.
Roxanne Coady is owner of R.J. Julia, one of the leading independent booksellers in the United States, which—since 1990—has been a community resource not only for books, but for the exchange of ideas. In 1998, Coady founded Read To Grow, which provides books for newborns and children and encourages parents to read to their children from birth. RTG has distributed over 1.5 million books.