Difficult Conversations Podcast

Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician

Episode 161 | December 13, 2021

The Problem With Dying

Dr. Bruce B.J. Miller

President & Counselor at Mettle Health

Dr. Bruce B.J. Miller

Welcome to Difficult Conversations with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Today, I have the distinct honor to have another incredible guest, and that is Dr. Bruce B.J. Miller, who is a longtime hospice and palliative care medicine physician as well as an author, TEDx presenter, and keynote speaker. He has given over one hundred talks on the topics of death, dying, palliative care, and the intersection of healthcare with design. Led by his own experiences as a patient, Dr. Miller advocates for the roles of our senses, community, and presence in designing a better ending. His career has been dedicated to moving healthcare towards a human-centered approach. His 2015 Ted Talk, “What really matters at the end of life,” has been viewed more than eleven million times, and his work has been the subject of multiple interviews and podcasts, including Oprah Winfrey, PBS, The New York Times, and the Ted Radio Hour. We will be talking about his book, A Beginner’s Guide to the End. Dr. Miller currently sees patients and families via Telehealth through Mettle Health, a company he co-founded with the aim to provide personalized holistic consultations for any patient or caregiver who needs help with navigating the practical, emotional, and existential issues that come with serious illness and disability.

We start out by hearing BJ Miller’s story, from his childhood experiences, his accident, and what brought him to work in palliative care medicine. BJ tells us a beautiful story about a nurse that locked eyes with him and held his hand upon arrival at the burn unit at St. Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey. Dr. Orsini talks about the importance of human connection between doctors and patients and how BJ’s story is very similar to Marcus Engel’s story, who was a previous guest on this podcast. BJ explains why we struggle with talking about dying, which starts with denial. And he shares thoughts on what we need more of in this mission of medicine to help physicians. Dr. Orsini talks about how training is so limited with physicians, which is why he’s dedicated the last ten years of his life to teaching them how to be more comfortable with end-of-life and tragic diagnosis. If you enjoyed this podcast, please go ahead and hit follow.

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