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The welcome visitor: living well, dying well

The welcome visitor: living well, dying well

Humphrys, John; Jarvis, Sarah

John Humphrys looks at how our attitudes to death have changed as doctors have learned how to prolong life beyond anything that could have been imagined only a few generations ago. He and his co-author Dr Sarah Jarvis confront one of the great challenges facing the western world today

Hardback, Book. English.
Published London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2009

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Details

Statement of responsibility: John Humphrys with Sarah Jarvis
ISBN: 0340923776, 9780340923771
Physical Description: ix, 271 p. ; 23 cm.
Subject: Longevity.; Death.; Death Psychological aspects.; Old age.

Author note

In a broadcasting career spanning forty years John Humphrys is best known for presenting Radio 4'sTodayprogramme and BBC television'sMastermind. He has won a string of national awards and been described as a 'national treasure'. He owned a dairy farm for ten years and has homes in Wales and London.

Dr Sarah Jarvis is a GP in London as well as making regular media appearances in The One Show and with her own column inGood Housekeepingmagazine.

Description

Death is a subject modern society shies away from. Even doctors avoid the word. But if we regard death as a failure in our frantic desire to prolong life at all costs, how can we ever arrive at a humane approach to those whose lives have lost all meaning?

John Humphrys asked himself this question when he watched his father's final sad, lingering, undignified years. His death, when it came at last, was a welcome end to his suffering and the anguish of those who loved him. It inspired this book.

Here he takes a wider look at how our attitudes to death have changed as doctors have learned how to prolong life beyond anything that could have been imagined only a few generations ago. He and his co-author Dr Sarah Jarvis, who has 22 years experience of dealing with the dying, confront one of the great challenges facing the western world today. We live for almost twice as long as our great-grandparents but refuse to accept that longevity can sometimes be a curse as well as a blessing. Are we keeping people alive simply because we can? And what of their carers whose lives may be ruined as a result of their own sacrifice?

There are of course no easy answers, but the first step must surely be to accept that death can be as welcome as it is inevitable.

Reviews

This is an important book. It needs to be. Slowly, we are coming to realise that a life well lived might decently conclude with a death well and timely died. We used to know this, although it was only spoken about in code. The medical profession certainly understood it, and then Harold Shipman scared the daylights out of everybody. The baby boomers have tried to jog away from death and are learning that whatever you do you still end up out of breath. Yet what we dread is not death, but the prospect of an agonising time dying. We shouldn't have to fear it. Thank heavens John is talking about it.||'Powerful... compelling'||'Comforting... Honest... It is a relief to have some of the private struggles of dealing with death brought out into the open. He is determined to tell it like it is.'||'Impassioned and impressive'||'Tremendously uplifting ...deserves the widest readership'