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Sunita Puri: A Palliative Care Doctor's Learnings on Death and Impermanence

Nuggets From Sunita Puri's Call

Last Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Sunita Puri.

Sunita Puri, M.D., is a palliative care physician and writer. She writes about what she has learned while working and practicing medicine “in the borderlands between life and death.” Dr. Puri stands in the tension between medicine’s impulse to preserve life at all costs and a spiritual embrace of life’s temporality. Her memoir, with stories of patients and families, has been called "a stunning meditation on impermanence and the role of medicine in helping us to live and die well, arming readers with information that will transform how we communicate with our doctors about what matters most to us." Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, and the Journal of the American Medical Association, and she has appeared on PBS. A Yale College, Oxford University, and UCSF Medical School graduate, Dr. Puri was born in Kentucky to Indian immigrants.

Below are some of the nuggets from the call that stood out for me ...

  • The fact of our finitude - the fact that we won't live forever - is a really powerful tool for us to determine what we want to do in this life
  • Medicine often presents itself as having the antidote to aging and to death. But nature will ultimately win
  • Mortality is not a medical problem, it is a spiritual concern
  • Nature is a great tool to understand the impermanence of all things...we love the burgundy of the leaves in the fall, and we think they are beautiful, yet those leaves are actually dying. We are part of that cycle
  • There is a spiritual and existential dimension to dying that medicine cannot treat. There is the inner work that each person needs to be willing to take on
  • Quote from the Bhagvad Gita: In compelling us to seek answers to spiritual questions, death is the greatest servant of humanity
  • When we think about what spirituality has to offer us, it must necessarily involve facing our impermanence

Lots of gratitude to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen!


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