Talking About Death Over Dinner

There are conversations doctors have with patients, that doctors have with themselves and that families should have with each other concerning end of life. 

KUOW brought together a panel do do just that: talk about death over dinner. 

Food was provided by chefs Debi and Hayden Smissen, who designed the menu while his own father was dying.

  • Host: Ross Reynolds, KUOW
  • Dr. Cat Saunders, Seattle counselor and death doula
  • Dr. Greg Vandekieft, palliative care physician 
  • Trudy James, MRE, hospital chaplain. She also has made a movie about conversations on death called "Speaking of Dying."
  • Dr. Anthony Back, oncologist and palliative care physician

"He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves." - Gabriel Garcia Marquez, from "Love in the Time of Cholera"

While the panel enjoys a plate inspired by the flavors and symbolism of spring, they discuss a key question: "Why talk about death?"

"Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old." -- Franz Kafka

The panel discusses what it means to live well, all the way to the end of life.

"We don't grow older, we grow riper." -- Pablo Picasso

One attitude patients and families sometimes face is the idea that death constitutes a "failure" on the part of the medical community. The panel discusses methods of better communication with your doctor concerning end-of-life care.

"Someday, somewhere - anywhere, unfailingly, you'll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life." --Pablo Neruda

For the final course, both the meal and the conversation comes full circle as the panel gives their final thoughts on how to talk about death with your family and why it's so important to start now.

Want to throw your own “death dinner”? Visit the organization Let’s Have Dinner And Talk About Death for inspiration and ideas.