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A kinder, gentler death

Physicians need better education and patients need better care around end-of-life issues. Fred Meyers has made it his job to provide both.

"I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there
when it happens." - Woody Allen

This quote pretty much sums up the national dichotomy on shuffling off this mortal coil. Death is a squeamish subject, even for physicians. But as we all eventually leave this world, isn't it worth the effort to make the experience less painful, less scary, and more humane?

Fred Meyers thinks so. As chair of the Department of Internal Medicine and director of the West Coast Center for Palliative Education, he has devoted his life to treating seriously ill patients. Taking care of the dying goes with the territory.

"Palliative care hasn't gotten a lot of attention from academic medical centers, although that's changing," says Meyers, who has directed the medical center's hospice program since 1986. "In general, physicians have not done palliative care well. They reflect society's discomfort with death. Death is somehow a failure."

Meyers' area of expertise is not merely the technical details of providing medical care for the terminally ill. His goal is to train healthcare professionals in improving end-of-life care and to initiate changes in the systems and organizations that provide this care.


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Inmates Robert Foreman (top left) and Charles Lewis (top right) listen to a lecture on palliative care at the California Men's Facility in Vacaville.