Dealing with Death

In this episode, Dr. Lucy Kalanithi shares her personal experience with the unexpected illness and passing of her late husband, and working with families and patients faced with end-of-life decision making.

“Being a physician helped me be a little more comfortable with coming to terms with the fact that suffering is a feature not a bug. It’s not avoidable. Suffering in some form impacts all of us. Having been a doctor set us up to be less likely to wrestle with the question of “why me?” because we’ve seen so many families go through really hard things. And instead it was kind of like “why not me?” or “Oh my God, now’s the time that it’s our turn to do this really hard thing that human beings do.” It didn’t make it any easier, but it sort of made it communal…”

“Being human doesn’t happen despite suffering — it happens within it.”

In Episode 13, we speak with Dr. Lucy Kalanithi, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Stanford and the widow of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, author of the bestselling memoir When Breath Becomes Air, to which she wrote the epilogue. Lucy is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University and an advocate for culture change around end-of-life care. She has implemented novel health care delivery models in primary care hospitals and health systems and serves as the host of her own podcast “Gravity” which explores narratives of suffering.

This conversation delves into Lucy’s journey of becoming a doctor, her personal experience with the unexpected illness and passing of her late husband, and working with families and patients faced with end-of-life decision making.

Topics we cover in this episode:

  • Lucy’s journey of becoming a doctor
  • Her personal experience with the unexpected illness and passing of her late husband, Dr. Paul Kalanithi
  • Working with families and patients faced with end-of-life decision making
  • How technology and social media has changed the end-of-life experience
  • The excess death toll from COVID, meaning more families and children have been facing loss and grief

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