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Home » What Really Matters At The End of Life by BJ Miller at TED (Full Transcript)

What Really Matters At The End of Life by BJ Miller at TED (Full Transcript)

BJ Miller

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:

 

TRANSCRIPT: 

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.

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