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The Way to Go, Portrait of a Residential Hospice
Where would we like to die? The Way to Go looks at a small residential hospice that provides compassionate and expert care at the end of life. The author, a volunteer there for eight years, has combined narratives of patients' lives with excerpts from her own journals, as well as sketches of a devoted staff. This is a layered, candid portrait of a place where the author and others would be content to live out their days -- the way to go.
Pritchard's (Among Strangers) account of a Massachusetts hospice is beautiful and intimate. The Fisher Home is a hospice facility that provides invaluable end of life care to terminal patients and their surviving friends and family. They focus on a holistic view of quality of life—they respect the patients' wishes, try to keep them as independent as possible, and concentrate their effort on pain management. Pritchard has been a volunteer at the hospice since her parents' lives ended there. She gets to know the staff and residents very well, and starts to thoughtfully unpack the complex attitudes towards death in modern society—namely the depersonalization of hospitals, the emphasis on quantity of life over quality of life, and the unwillingness of people to openly speak about death as a part of life. The end result is both a heartbreaking and heartwarming study of the end of life. Readers will be interested in Pritchard's personal account and also in the data she supplies about the hospice movement in America. Her accounts of the patients' ends will leave readers feeling very thoughtful about their own mortality, the mortality of their loved ones, and the dignity with which they would like those lives to end. While hospice care is not an easy topic to discuss, Pritchard will thoroughly convince readers of its necessity and hopefully open the conversation for increased compensation to those facilities from insurance providers. (BookLife)

By now, the concept of hospice care is generally recognized in the United States.   But few people have a broad understanding of how such services are provided, who performs them, and how they are received by patients and their families.    Marietta Pritchard’s new book can rectify that deficiency---thanks to her insightful reporting, her moving account of how hospice helped with her own parents’ deaths, and simply listening to and recording of the people involved.       In this third way, as Ronald Blythe did for an English village in his classic book, Akenfield, she brings hospice to life in a concrete and personal way.


Harold Varmus, MD

Nobel Laureate in Medicine