21 May 2020, The Tablet

In the end

In the end

33 Meditations On Death: Notes from the Wrong End of Medicine
(DOUBLEDAY, 304 PP, £14.99
Tablet bookshop price £13.49 • Tel 020 7799 4064

This entertaining volume is the distilled wisdom of consultant geriatrician Dr David Jarrett, gleaned from 40 years of clinical practice. The 33 meditations combine case studies and autobiography to explore the complex, and often frightening, business of dying in the twenty-first century.

Although the stories provide snapshots rather than a broad canvas, a theme does emerge – that we have somehow lost our way in the care of the elderly. The profusion of protocols and care pathways, plus the inexorable rise of litigation, can make the final years of old people a perplexing morass of investigations and treatments. While ­acknowledging the benefits of technology and therapeutics, Dr Jarrett casts a rueful backward glance to a time where ensuring the comfort and dignity of the patient took precedence over diagnostic certainty, the need for which is now compounded by the fact that death is hidden away in hospitals and care homes, so society is losing its “feel” for what is appropriate.

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