Never in our lifetimes has sickness and death been brought into view as it has during the COVID-19 pandemic. How are we to make sense of human finitude? A six hundred-year-old book provides an answer. In the wake of western Europe’s bubonic plague outbreak of the 1350s, a text was published offering advice to help the living prepare for a good death. The Ars Moriendi—or Art of Dying—made clear that to die well, one first had to live well. When Lydia Dugdale discovered this medieval book, it was a revelation. Inspired by its holistic approach to the final stage we must all one day face, she draws from this forgotten work, combining its wisdom with the knowledge she has gleaned from her care of patients. The Lost Art of Dying offers a hopeful perspective on death and dying as Lydia Dugdale shows us how to adapt the wisdom from the past to our lives today.
Lydia Dugdale, Silberberg Associate Professor of Medicine at Columbia University