Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Revisiting the 'good death' and why it's so rare in medicine on Thursday's Access Utah

Medical researcher and ICU physician Samuel Brown says, “While writing a book about death culture and American religion before the Civil War, I read hundreds of accounts of the ‘good death.’ I began to wonder why good dying was incredibly rare in the hospitals where I practiced medicine.”

In his book, Through the Valley of Shadows: Living Wills, Intensive Care, and Making Medicine Human (Oxford University Press), Dr. Brown proposes a new way of thinking about life-threatening illness and the end of life. In stories from his clinical experience, Dr. Brown reveals the conflicting feelings that make conversations about the possibility of death so difficult for patients, families and doctors. These complex emotions are poorly served, he says, by the living wills or advance directives that we have come to rely on, making already difficult decisions even more painful and inhumane. 


Dr. Brown proposes strategies for patients, their families, and medical practitioners so they can better address human needs before, during, and after serious illness. He argues that any solution to the inhumanity of intensive care must take advantage of new research on the ways human beings process information and make choices. He imagines a truly humane and compassionate ICU and his manifesto for reform advocates wholeness and healing for people facing life-threatening illness.


Dr. Samuel Brown is a medical researcher, ICU physician, and historian of religion and culture. He is Assistant Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Medical Ethics and Humanities at Intermountain Medical Center/University of Utah and director of the Center for Humanizing Critical Care at Intermountain Medical Center. He was trained at Harvard College and Harvard Medical School.  


Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996. He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.) He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah.” He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.