B J Miller – Showing up Because You Care
‘In palliative care the issues of suffering, of love, of meaning making, resolution of tensionThey’re not inherently medical issues, I mean, medicine may have something to offer them. But otherwise, medicine, you know, it’s a bit-player in some ways’
This week Julian talks to BJ Miller. Having started his academic career in the arts, it took a few key events and some time for BJ to come around to palliative care, where he worked as a physician for a time before seeing that many of the soft edges of palliative care are discarded by the medical, despite them being where a lot of care actually takes place. Since then he has worked in organisations that have sought to combine the medical with the other aspects that amount to high quality palliative care.
His work has been revolutionary for many who have come into contact with it, and his general campaign to teach us to live well in the face of terminal illness has seen him interviewed by Oprah amongst others, has an outstanding Ted Talk, and is oft quoted when people talk about death and dying.
His current company Mettle Health ‘addresses the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of anyone contemplating their health, or the health of someone they love’. Having been in the healthcare system both as a patient and then as a doctor BJ understands the difficulty of navigating care, in particular when such a life changing event such as terminal illness, is at the centre of it. Mettle Health guide their patient’s through the process, making sure that the whole circle of palliative care is involved – from ensuring the drugs are right, to making sure that those soft edges, the moments of loving kindness, are also scheduled for.
Hearing BJ and Julian talk about palliative care it is clear how much they have in common, their motivation, and in particular their gradual disillusion with the medicalised, siloed, nature of medicine that led them both to the more holistic environs of death and dying. It is also clear that what they know from palliative care shouldn’t just be refined to those with terminal illnesses. Death and dying is a part of life and we can nurture those soft edges of palliative care from our earliest days – nourishing community, friendship and accountability in our daily lives.
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