NLS 112: I See Dead People with Dr. Christopher Kerr

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Manage episode 339542292 series 2557610
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Christopher Kerr, MD, PhD, is the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Executive Officer for Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo. Alongside direct patient care, Dr. Kerr’s focus is in the areas of leadership and patient advocacy. He has overseen the integration and expansion of palliative care into hospitals and developed a large home-based program for both adults and children and has published on innovative program models that are designed to better align patient/family services to the complexity of needs inherent to advanced illness. Dr. Kerr’s background in research has evolved from bench science toward the human experience of illness as witnessed from the bedside, specifically patients’ dreams and visions at the end of life. Although medically ignored, these near-universal experiences often provide comfort and meaning, as well as insight into the life led and the death anticipated. To date, the research team at Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo has published multiple studies on this topic and documented over 1,500 end-of-life events, many of which are videotaped. Dr. Kerr’s work was published in a recent book called Death Is but a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life's End. Christopher Kerr is a hospice doctor. All of his patients die. Yet, he has cared for thousands of patients who, in the face of death, speak of love and grace. Beyond the physical realities of dying are unseen processes that are remarkably life-affirming. These include dreams that are unlike any regular dream. Described as "more real than real", these end-of-life experiences resurrect past relationships, meaningful events, and themes of love and forgiveness; they restore life's meaning and mark the transition from distress to comfort and acceptance. Drawing on interviews with over 1,400 patients and more than a decade of quantified data, Dr. Kerr reveals that pre-death dreams and visions are extraordinary occurrences that humanize the dying process. He shares how his patients' stories point to death as not solely about the end of life, but as the final chapter of humanity's transcendence. Kerr's audiobook also illuminates the benefits of these phenomena for the bereaved, who find solace in seeing their loved ones pass with a sense of calm closure. Beautifully written, with astonishing real-life characters and stories, this audiobook is at its heart a celebration of our power to reclaim the dying process as a deeply meaningful one. Death Is but a Dream is an important contribution to our understanding of medicine's and humanity's greatest mystery. Please enjoy my conversation with Dr. Christopher Kerr.

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