What Dying People Want: Practical Wisdom for the End of Life


317 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-385-65883-4
DDC 155.9'37






Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University and an avid outdoor recreationist. She is the
author of several books, including The Mountain Is Moving: Japanese
Women’s Lives, Kurlek and Margaret Laurence: T


A relatively young Vancouver physician with extensive experience in
counseling and caring for dying patients has taken a fresh look at an
ancient topic. Sooner or later, for ourselves and those we love, death
and dying will command our attention. At such a time we need wisdom,
practical wisdom, and David Kuhl’s words are well chosen.

In nine chapters, Kuhl addresses such essential matters as anxiety,
physical pain, the importance of physical as well as psychological touch
and closeness, speaking the truth, and self-realization. A final chapter
on transcendence takes off from a profound reflection by German
philosopher and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was imprisoned and
executed by the Nazis. Bonhoeffer wrote: “The beyond is not what is
infinitely remote, but what is nearest at hand.”

Kuhl begins with a personal story of one woman’s pain, pain caused
more by her relationship with her daughter than by the cancer that was
killing her. Alice taught Kuhl that dying is far more than just a
physical event, but is rather “a process that includes one’s whole
being—physical, psychological, and spiritual.” Other patients taught
Kuhl that dying is hard work: hard psychologically and physically. So
too is living. And both include choices.

Kuhl’s reflections flow from years of caring for patients as well as
from study. What Dying People Want offers to readers reflections that
are thoughtful and sensitive, reflections stemming from years of dealing
with a unique and unavoidable experience that comes to us all. The book
is both wise and practical, as the subtitle suggests.


Kuhl, David., “What Dying People Want: Practical Wisdom for the End of Life,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/9149.