Full text and summary of Palliative care specialist BJ Miller’s talk titled “What Really Matters At The End of Life” at TED conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Well, we all need a reason to wake up. For me, it just took 11,000 volts. I know you’re too polite to ask, so I will tell you.
One night, sophomore year of college, just back from Thanksgiving holiday, a few of my friends and I were horsing around, and we decided to climb atop a parked commuter train. It was just sitting there, with the wires that run overhead. Somehow, that seemed like a great idea at the time. We’d certainly done stupider things. I scurried up the ladder on the back, and when I stood up, the electrical current entered my arm, blew down and out my feet, and that was that. Would you believe that watch still works? Takes a licking! My father wears it now in solidarity.
That night began my formal relationship with death — my death — and it also began my long run as a patient. It’s a good word. It means one who suffers. So I guess we’re all patients.
Now, the American health care system has more than its fair share of dysfunction — to match its brilliance, to be sure. I’m a physician now, a hospice and palliative medicine doc, so I’ve seen care from both sides. And believe me: almost everyone who goes into healthcare really means well — I mean, truly. But we who work in it are also unwitting agents for a system that too often does not serve.