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4.6 out of 5 stars
In the Midst of Life
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106 of 106 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2011
This courageous book should be read widely, especially by the medical profession and those who are elderly or have elderly relatives. Jennifer Worth takes the subject of dying, and examines it with examples from her own acquaintance and in all its manifestations--bad deaths, good deaths, and resucitation. Dying is something we all have to go through, but in the UK it is a subject that is rarely discussed. The 'normal' English death and funeral are tightlipped and sober. Elsewhere. for example, Ireland and the Carribean, the wake and funeral are a real celebration of a life, with friends and relations, old and young, attending. Adults and children thereby understand that the dead person whom they loved was somebody of significance whose life should be cherished. The second topic Mrs Worth examines is the resucitation of people who have had strokes, accidents or are simply dying of old age, again a question that has not been debated adequately in the UK. Whoever you are, and however old or ill or severely incapacitated you are, a medical team if it is called, will attempt to resucitate you. If it can't, this is seen as a failure. This often results in people continuing to live in a very poor state, and Mrs Worth questions whether such interventions are justified in all cases and clearly answers 'no'. Mrs Worth has done us all a service by raising and examining these issues. The book is not difficult or macabre but, on the contrary inspiring, and the personal examples interesting. As usual, her style is personal and direct, and it is very easy to empathise with those whose cases are being described. A 5* recommendation.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2012
Read the previous three books and loved them, and so wanted to "complete" the set.
Beautifully written in a very natural way, which is what makes Ms Worth such a lovely author.
Found the stories facinating and heart-breaking, was a very hard book to read having lost my mum very suddenly last year, and at times I wondered why I was putting myself through it as was finding it quite upsetting at times, but as with all her books you have to go on. I've gone onto a fluffy girly book to recover, but on reflection it makes me sad because I would have loved to have been with my mum at the end, calmly and peacefully as described in the book, sending her on her way. But it's wasnt to be and that cant be changed. I think more people are realising that going back to a more old fashioned end at home without all the medical intervention is what most of us want & need, and thanks to the angels from Marie Curie and other organisations, this is possible for some. None of us can really decide our end of life any more that what happens in it, it's as random as a toss of a coin. And accepting that is something I'm coming to terms with.
Always sad to come across an author like this and read their books after they have died, you would love more but there really is no chance, and as with all her books this is the kind of book you want to find other people who have read it and have a good chat about it.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2011
In The Midst of life is thought-provoking and readable, even at bedtime. My husband thought it very strange that I, normally so squeamish, kept the light on an extra ten minutes so I could finish reading about Mr Waters as he drowned in his own gurgling bubbling lungs !

Jennifer doesn't pull any punches with her graphic and factual descriptions of medical conditions and procedures. However, her writing is so engaging that the stories and characters always rise above the gruesome detail. She always elevates and celebrates the human. This makes the book very sad in places, for as much as she loves and cares for the people in the stories, she cannot prevent the distress and indignity that many of them suffer as they near the end.

The book makes us think about death as part of life and to accept it rather than fight it. I was slightly miffed when I got to the last few pages and read that Jennifer thinks that fear of death is caused by a lack of faith. I regard myself as an atheist. I don't think of death as a returning to God, but neither do I think of it as a mere decaying of flesh and bones. I think of death as part of the natural cycle of birth, death and regeneration.

This last paragraph is not a criticism, in fact it is the opposite. The fact That Jennifer promotes such thinking and discussion is a high commendation. I would also like to commend the beautiful poems of Philip Worth and David Hart, they add so much to the book and I read them again and again.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2011
This book is quite different from Jennifer's other 3 books; which I absolutely loved - reading about wonderful characters of life from The East End of London.
But this one has opened up a whole new world to me that I wasn't aware of. That is keeping patients alive with CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) - the pros and cons and the quality of life the patient is left with. This is especially concerning when the patient has specifically requested to a nurse or a friend, 'I do not want to be resuscitated if anything happens to me' and then they are! - with little quality of life left.
But of course as Jennifer explains - it is just what doctors are required to do.
However, when I was discussing this with my friend, this was of great benefit to her, as it meant she had one special day with her friend, before he died. It allowed them to talk and laugh and say their goodbyes. So in this case prompt CPR was more than worth it!!
As my husband reminded me, of a programme about Great Ormond Street Hospital, one of the Consultants said, just because we have the skills and technology to keep someone alive doesn't mean we should. I now see what he means.
In fact I do recall a Vicar saying, there comes a time when you have to stop praying for the relative to get better, instead pray for their quiet release.
I think this is what Jennifer is saying - that we have lost the reverence for death. What has happened to those days, when people were allowed to die peacefully, or in a tranquil place - not in a noisy, busy ward, with other hustle and bustle going on.
I guess there'll always be someone who benefits from it and someone who doesn't. Its an interesting subject to ponder and an important book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2010
This was a thought provoking book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It came into my life at a very significant juncture when my own mother was suffering and dying and it helped me to put her suffering in perspective. I have recommended this book to several of my friends.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2011
This was not an easy book to read. I work with dementia patients. My Mother is 92 and 2 years into this awful disease. How wonderful our medical services are but have we gone too far? Do we have a choice about resuscitation/invasive medical procedures? I was in A&E yet again with my Mother, having been ambulated in after another TIA and I was frowned upon as I reminded the senior nurse that my Mother had chosen not to be resuscitated. "You will have to see the doctor about that!" We have now asked the Care Home NOT to have her admitted if she is not in pain or fallen & broken anything, but "they have to cover themselves because of litigation"!! I have seen so many die a far worse lingering death after 'medical intervention' in later life. I am not saying there are any easy answers but why as a society do we not talk about Death and ask the questions? This should be one of the books read by every medical student, doctor, Care Manager,and many more! In the end, reading this book has made me even more LIVE and appreciate the LIFE I have left and LIVE every day to the full, and wear a pendant - NO RESUSCITATION PLEASE!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2011
Should be required reading for anyone who works for the NHS. Having also worked at a time before intensive care units etc, I can relate well to what she is saying. A brillant important book that tackles a difficult subject head on. Well done Jennifer Worth. However, not for the faint hearted.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2011
I empathised with the author's feelings about the end of life, especially of her experience and feelings about her granddad's death, which were similar to my own. Aged 84, a retired farmer, but still working part time as a shepherd on a neighbouring farm, my granddad was suddenly brought low by a stroke, which robbed him of the use of his legs. He was living with us and I was about twelve and felt that it was cruel that such an active man should be so stricken, and later, when he had difficulty with his speech, I was so full of pity for him that he could not communicate with us properly. I shall never forget the night when my uncle, who had been keeping vigil by his bedside, came into my parents' bedroom and said, "He's gone". The relief that I felt was wonderful and when I looked at his face in death it was so peaceful. Since then I have had no fear of death. I hope that those who read "In the Midst of Life" will also be reassured that death comes as a friend in old age.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2011
this book is a fascinating read. I read it shortly following the early death of my mother from adenocarcinoma. It was comforting to read as I felt that actually, my mother had had quite a good death. Many issues are raised regarding the treatment of alzheimers patients and the modern conception that death is to be fended off even to the detriment of the patient. The modern obsession with reasons for everything leaves no room for the concept of natural death from old age. Jennifer Worth is clearly a very compassionate woman, and some of this book is quite hard to read. However, it is very thought provoking and worth persevering with the medical terminogy. I found it very helpful as part of the grieving process.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 10 November 2010
I had this book on pre order for many months after reading the fantastic "call the midwife" trilogy. I was very excited when it arrived. This is a thought provoking book and i have also worked with a lot of people at the end of thier lives and i found some of the authors views very judgmental about some areas of care which annoyed me a little, however I understand we can only write about our personal experiences!
I have complete admiration for the author after reading all of her previous publications and love the way each book is written, the books are always hard to put down.
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