Palliative Care: Core Skills and Clinical Competencies
Chapter 2: Suffering: The Hundred Little Deaths before Dying
Stephen Jenkinson

Stephen Jenkinson is a passionate but controversial guide to those who are dying. This chapter by him comes from an influential textbook about palliative care. Given his articulate critique of common professional attitudes toward suffering, this chapter was dropped from subsequent editions of the book. I will be writing more about him, especially his clear view that suffering is a skill to be learned.

“My Story Is Broken: Can You Help Me Fix It?” Medical Ethics and the Joint Construction of Narrative
Howard Brody

Howard Brody is a family physician who went on to earn a PhD in philosophy so that he could more deeply examine the power of a physician to heal. He has written extensively on the topic but this is a seminal article on what he considers to lie at the heart of the physician-patient relationship. Conversations with him about this article deeply influenced my work as a chaplain.

Last Call: A Buddhist monk confronts Japan’s suicide culture.”
Larissa MacFarquhar

Larissa MacFarquhar is a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine. This article became a chapter in her recent book, “Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help.” I particularly like the poignant description of this monk’s Zen training and how it led him to the care of those who feel the despair of wanting to commit suicide.

Excerpts from “The Word That Shall Not Be Spoken”
Thomas H. Lee, MD

Thomas Lee was on the board of the New England Journal of Medicine when this editorial appeared in 2013. I was stunned when I read his honest description of the ways in which physicians avoid the suffering of their patients.