Ira Byock serves as Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer for the Institute for Human Caring of Providence Health and Services, a 35 hospital health system serving communities across 5 western states. Dr. Byock advances efforts to measure, monitor and improve whole-person health care systemwide. He is a practicing physician and is based in Torrance, CA.
Dr. Byock has authored numerous peer-reviewed academic articles on the ethics and practice of care. His research has led to conceptual frameworks for the lived experience of advanced illness, subjective quality of life measures, and simple, effective life-completion counseling. His leadership in development of groundbreaking prototypes for concurrent care of people through the end of life has been foundational to advancing patient-centered care.
Byock's first book, Dying Well, (1997) has become a standard in the field of hospice and palliative care. 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. His most recent book, The Best Care Possible (2012) tackles the crisis that surrounds serious illness and dying in America and his quest to transform care through the end of life.
Ira Byock's website
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Ira Byock on palliative care
Why did you decide to write this book?
Despite all the advances in medicine, far too many people who are seriously ill suffer needlessly and end up dying badly.
America's health care system is actually a disease-treatment system. People's health - including their physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being, is often ignored in the quest to preserve life at all costs. In the process of battling disease, people often experience needless suffering, sometimes dying sooner than they should, sometimes lingering in a state of prolonged dying that few people would want.
Dying will never be easy. Similarly, caring for a loved one who is in the waning phases of life is inherently hard. All of us will eventually face the end of life, but neither dying nor caregiving has to be as hard as they are today. It would seem irresponsible for me to keep what I have learned from patients and families and my experience as a doctor over all these years to myself. In a sense I am but a conduit, learning from patients and their families and passing along to my contemporaries the insights I have gained
What do you mean by "the best care possible?"
When we or someone we love becomes seriously ill, we all ...
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