Know Your Wishes
Reviews & Endorsements
"Last Wish - a hand to hold while you journey through difficult personal and emotional terrain”
“Writing about medical care at the end of life requires devotion to a quite literally vital subject in order to transcend the inconvenient fact that, while all humans die, few Americans want to think about it, much less read about it.
So all credit to the pulmonary and critical care physician Lauren Van Scoy for having the imagination and fortitude to take on this task, one I’m tempted to describe as thankless, but that would miss the point of the pervasive gratitude in “Last Wish: Stories to Inspire a Peaceful Passing” (Transmedia Books). Medicine’s glory is perhaps in the cure, but is there a higher calling than the compassionate care of the dying?” -More
~ Paul McLean, Medical Ethics and Me, a Boston-based group of 19 diverse professionals who provide feedback on medical ethics policies to the Harvard teaching hospitals.
"Dr. Van Scoy offers compelling, real-world accounts of people and families dealing with unanticipated serious illness. The clear message is end-of-life care planning conversations should be held as far in advance of illness as possible. These are discussions that should be held in the living room, not in the hospital waiting room. Dr. Van Scoy brings professional insight and a gentle manner to families coping with serious illness and death. Her real-life stories are wake-up calls to all those who have yet to even begin thinking about making a plan for dignified end-of-life care. Everybody over age 18 should have a completed advance directive. Death is not an option, so it's up to each of us to plan for what we would want or not want, both for ourselves and our loved ones."
~ Paul Malley, President, Aging with Dignity
“As a person living with serious illness, Last Wish- Stories to Inspire a Peaceful Passing affirms my belief that we are all empowered to shape how we live and how we die.”
~ Amy Berman, Senior Program Officer, The John A. Hartford Foundation
"Last Wish - Stories to Inspire A Peaceful Passing" by Dr. Lauren Van Scoy is a must-read for all thoughtful adults. The book reads like a best seller, but its honesty about the final decision of a lifetime is a mosaic of emotion that shocks you, enlightens you, and in poignant and memorable true stories, ultimately sets you free.
~ Larry Kane - Anchor, Author, and TV Host for 47 years in Philadelphia.
"We will all face end of life decisions, but most don't give the matters thought until we are in crisis. Better to face the tough decisions when we are of sound body and mind than to await our eventual fate. That's my takeaway from Dr. Lauren Van Scoy's new book, Last Wish – Stories to Inspire A Peaceful Passing. Not only is there a personal motivation to do so (70% would rather die at home, but only 30% do) but also a societal interest in having this conversation given that 70% of all healthcare costs are spent in a person's last 2.5 years of life. By offering vignettes and compelling facts, Dr. Van Scoy sheds new light on an old, and often avoided conversation."
Michael A. Smerconish, highly regarded radio and television personality, newspaper columnist, author and MSNBC political analyst. His talk radio show is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Talk Radio WPHT.
“To be a professional advocate for research for healthier and more vital aging does not mean one favors life extension at any cost. I read Dr. Van Scoy’s engrossing book on a cross-country flight to visit my 94-year-old mother, quite possibly for the last time. Therefore, the end-of-life issues that are so wisely and humanly considered in Last Wish were very much on my mind.
“I find myself in deep sympathy and respect for the patients, families and health professionals who are vividly portrayed in these vignettes. Alas, the pursuit of the “good death” remains as elusive as ever, and is made even more difficult by the painful dilemmas often thrust upon us by modern intensive care technology.
“The stories told in these pages, together with the resources and web-based supports offered at the end, are highly recommended for all who will likely face these choices for a loved one, and inevitably someday for ourselves.”
~ Daniel Perry, President and CEO, Alliance for Aging Research, Washington, DC
"Emily Dickinson wrote, 'Unable are the loved to die/For love is immortality...' In her book 'Last Wish' Van Scoy shows us the truth of this statement. In a vivid narrative the author guides us through stories of five people and their loved ones facing death. These stories don't just paint a realistic picture of the complexity of end-of-life decisions and discussions for families. They also show with honesty and respect the rock-tumbler of medical training, where every-day intensity can either smooth out the rough edges or grind you to dust. Dr. Van Scoy's book took me back to my training in ICU medicine, and reminded me that the lines of separation we draw -- you patient, me doctor -- are arbitrary, and that we are all bound by our humanity, so palpably present at the time of dying."
- Marya Zilberberg, MD, MPH, FCCP
Founder, President and CEO, EviMed Research Group, LLC; Associate Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; author of "Between the Lines: Finding the Truth in Medical Literature"; editor and blogger at Healthcare, etc.
Endorsements from healthcare professionals
Beautifully, thoughtfully and respectfully written, we learn about Bruce, Mrs. Chandler, Patrick, Walter, Victoria – aged under 20 to over 80 – along with their families. Most of these people we meet before they die. Interestingly, one patient was expected to die but didn’t, another we learn about after his death. Dr. Van Scoy presents many sides: doctor (s) patient, families, and surrogate decision makers. By themselves, these stories provide powerful examples of the range of emotions, practicalities, legalities and finalities. But Dr. Van Scoy doesn’t stop there. At the end of the book is an examination of an Advance Directive.
- Kathy Kastner, Publisher and Editor, Ability4Life website, written when Last Wish was DNR
“Despite that fact that most Americans will at sometime be faced with having a loved one admitted to an intensive care unit and needing to make end-of-life decisions, few have any idea what is involved in this decision-making process. Where can patients and their families turn to better understand whether to choose to allow a natural death or to order the physician to do everything you possibly can? Furthermore, while many healthcare providers face these decisions on a day-to-day basis, there are few opportunities to gain insight into the wide range of factors that need to be addressed in making these decisions.
“Dr. Van Scoy’s collection of real-life case scenarios of patients and their families who were faced with these decisions provides insights and perspectives that are useful to laymen and healthcare providers alike. The value of the patients’ stories is enhanced by the firsthand insights provided from the perspective of a young house officer providing care to these critically ill patients with a heart of passion, but the naïveté that permits a close connection with the difficult predicament the families are facing.
“Always serious and passionate, the stories are as entertaining a read as they are thought-provoking. This collection of stories will be a great help to families, patients and healthcare providers who seek to achieve an accurate perspective on the often entered, but rarely discussed world of making end-of-life decisions in the intensive care unit of a tertiary care hospital. It is an outstanding read and a valuable asset to this literature.”
James C. Reynolds, M.D.
June F. Klinghoffer Distinguished Professor and Chair,
Department of Medicine
Drexel University College of Medicine
“In an era of debate over the massive health care resources used in end-of-life care, the individual’s struggle with end-of-life issues is often lost. This is an important book that tells the stories of how people choose to die and how their families are affected. It discusses the importance of knowing when to pursue aggressive therapies and when it is reasonable to stop and allow natural death. It should be read by people with chronic illness making tough choices on their own end-of-life decisions. It should be read by family members of hospitalized patients in intensive care units. It should be read by policymakers and politicians. It should be read by all of us, who will someday be confronting our own mortality.”
Michael Sherman, M.D., author of The Pocket Doctor
Informa Healthcare 2002)
Associate Professor of Medicine and Program Director,
Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship, Drexel University
( College of Medicine
“Dr.Van Scoy has written a wonderful book. She has tackled a topic that makes many of us uncomfortable. However, we are all likely to be thrust into a similar dilemma at some point in our lives either personally or with a loved one. She gives hope and advice to us, that we can "do the right thing.” As a fellow physician, I admire her courage in addressing this issue and her compassion and insight into how to come to a decision that we can "live with."
- Perry Pitkow, MD
“Last Wish powerfully highlights how important it is for all individuals to have end-of-life discussions and plans in place for loved ones and themselves before either the predictable or unpredictable occurs. To have these decisions and paperwork completed will dramatically reduce stress to the lives of loved ones, who will already be very stressed at these very tough times for all humans.
The LGBT Community faces unique and additional challenges in these kinds of situations if this paperwork has not been done. We at SAGE continually strive to educate our people about this and help facilitate their getting this done. Last Wish is an extremely valuable book not only for our community but for all communities and individuals as well.”
Tom Weber, Director of Community Services
SAGE - Services and Advocacy for GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender) Elders, New York, NY
Using real patient stories to teach the reader how to handle end-of-life issues, Dr. Lauren Van Scoy brought me right into the Intensive Care Unit where she works. She helped me see what to do and what not to let happen by failing to make my wishes clear. Reading these riveting stories, and Dr. Van Scoy's helpful explanations after each chapter, "Last Wish" showed me how to be prepare for end-of-life issues myself, and in my family.
What makes this book especially useful compared to all other end-of-life books is the unique planning guide Dr. Van Scoy calls "The Last Wish Compass." The Compass is at the back of the Last Wish book and I recommend tearing it out and using it as a discussion guide with your family.
The Compass contains the questions to guide family discussions and help figure out what you would want if you ever land in the ICU or face a life-threatening situation. Reading the Compass, I realized quickly that I need this tool in addition to an Advance Directive, which by itself is not enough. With the addition of the Compass, I feel secure knowing I'm ready for whatever life brings my way.
Last Wish stirred many emotions from laughter and tears. It's rare to read a book this useful that is also such a page-turner. Thank you Dr. Van Scoy.
- Amazon product reviewer
Dr. Van Scoy has done us all a tremendous service writing "Last Wish: Stories to Inspire a Peaceful Passing." She compassionately and beautifully recounts the experiences of a number of her patients at the ends of their lives. Some have "good deaths", while others suffer needlessly and endlessly because their relatives do not know what their last wishes are.
I am in my 90's and have watched my husband and many close relatives and friends pass away. We all die, but to die peacefully, surrounded by our loved-ones, is something I would think we all would choose. Dr. Van Scoy shows us how to achieve this.
I am particularly grateful that "Last Wish" contains Dr. Van Scoy's "Last Wish Compass", which I will use to talk with my family to be sure they understand what my wishes are. I can see how this Compass is a very valuable tool that will give much better clarity to my wishes than an Advance Directive alone does.
Thank you Dr. Van Scoy. You have devoted your life to the end-of-life care of your patients, and now you have shared that wisdom with all of us who can read your book. What a service and kindness your book is.
- Barbara, Amazon reviewer
I expected Last Wish to be informative but not entertaining. I was happy to discover that I could not put this book down. I was immediately immersed in the near death situations Dr. Van Scoy describes. I felt as if I was in the hospital rooms with her patients and their families. Dr. Van Scoy's stories are told with grace, respect and empathy. The book made me more aware of the complex issues involved in end of life care and decisions. Family members of a near death patient are often faced with difficult decisions that no one has anticipated. "If I'm in a coma and definitely not waking up, pull the plug" is not the only scenario you or a family member might be involved in. There are many other situations for which one should be prepared. I'm in my 40's and have never had a real conversation with my husband about my wishes for end of life situations. I realize that such a talk is needed to clarify each of our own true perspectives and desires. Last Wish is an important book that should not only be read by the elderly or people with a loved one in an end of life situation. It is a book that everyone should read. The fact that this book is a beautiful, richly told page-turner is an added bonus.
- DB Jackson, Amazon.com review, written when Last Wish was DNR
This book is the best read I have had in a long time. Having lost my mother recently I almost feared reading it, that the memories were too raw and sensitive. In fact, it helped greatly having been taken by the hand of the author through the very real and painful, yet joyful at times experiences of others living the same ordeal. I would highly recommend this to anyone in the medical field or for family members tormenting on life/death situations. Her compassion and love is clear throughout this book and her dedication to her medical life is by far commendable at the highest regard. Be prepared to be moved emotionally and spiritually. My congratulations to her for accomplishing what I believe is one of the most wonderful accounts of the doctor/patient experiences I have read so far in my lifetime. Would hope to read another of her books soon. Thank you.
- S. McCInnis, Amazon.com review, written when Last Wish was DNR
Last Wish: Stories to Inspire A Peaceful Passing is difficult to put down. It is a well-written book that serves to get readers thinking about life and how they wish to live in the face of serious illness. It normalizes the fact that discussions about death and decisions about medical care in the face of serious illness are difficult for all of us. - more -
A well-written book that serves to get readers thinking about life and how they wish to live in the face of serious illness
Larry Kane and Dr. Van Scoy
on the set of Voices of Reason
Michael A. Smerconish
Marya Zilberberg, MD
Death is not the greatest of evils; it is worse to
want to die, and not be able to” - Sophocles
A website and book for helping
you make informed choices
about end-of-life planning.