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The Podcast by KevinMD

Jan 31, 2021

"In Wooster, Ohio, where I practiced, a small not-for-profit hospice agency relied on local physicians, clergy, and many other volunteers to supplement the skills and dedication of their employed staff. It was through this work with Hospice of Wayne County, in making home visits when needed, that I learned the immeasurable value of presence. By continuing to care for my cancer patients until they died, I acquired insight into the equally essential virtue of nonabandonment. When I first attended a hospice and palliative medicine conference in the early 1990s, I realized that I had found my home—a community of professionals of various disciplines who had found what I had discovered: that it is the people, not the diseases, that matter. It would be years before I would totally focus my medical practice on the care of the dying, but in the meantime, the lessons I learned from those at the end of their lives made me a better oncologist and maybe even a better person. As I mentioned above, the most important of those lessons is the realization that I also am mortal, and I too will die."

Jeff Spiess is an oncologist and palliative care physician. He is the author of Dying with Ease: A Compassionate Guide for Making Wiser End-of-Life Decisions. (

He shares his story and discusses his KevinMD article, "Death is personal for this physician." (