Cover image for The Pursuit of Life: The Promise and Challenge of Palliative Care Edited by Robert Fine, Jack Levison, withKelsey Spinnato, and and with foreword by Diane Meier

The Pursuit of Life

The Promise and Challenge of Palliative Care

Edited by Robert Fine and Jack Levison, with Kelsey Spinnato and with foreword by Diane Meier


$109.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09440-3

$32.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09441-0

Available as an e-book

276 pages
6" × 9"
2 b&w illustrations

The Pursuit of Life

The Promise and Challenge of Palliative Care

Edited by Robert Fine and Jack Levison, with Kelsey Spinnato and with foreword by Diane Meier

“The authors have done an extraordinary job of walking readers through the history of palliative care and showing the current and potential future of the profession.”


  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
This volume examines crucial concerns in palliative care, including the proper balance between comfort and cure for the patient, the integration of spiritual well-being, and the challenges of providing care in the absence of basic medical services and supplies.

In the first section, palliative-care pioneers Constance Dahlin, Eduardo Bruera, Neil MacDonald, and Declan Walsh recount the early history of the discipline. Part 2 discusses the role of poetry, prose, plays, and other aspects of the humanities in the practice of palliative care. Part 3 explores essential current issues in the field, including autonomy, the use of opioids, and the impact of artificial intelligence on the evolution of palliative care. The final section focuses on the spiritual dimensions of pain and suffering.

Rich with anecdotes and personal stories and featuring contributions from pioneers and current practitioners, The Pursuit of Life is an essential assessment of the past, present, and future of palliative care.

In addition to the editors, the contributors include W. Andrew Achenbaum, Stacy L. Auld, Elena Pagani Bagliacca, Costantino Benedetti, Courtenay Bruce, Eduardo Bruera, Joseph Calandrino, Jim Cleary, Constance Dahlin, Andrea Ferrari, Mauro Ferrari, Joseph J. Fins, Bettie Jo Tennon Hightower, Kathryn B. Kirkland, Robin W. Lovin, Neil MacDonald, Charles Millikan, Dominique J. Monlezun, Tullio Proserpio, Giovanna Sironi, Daniel P. Sulmasy, and Declan Walsh.

“The authors have done an extraordinary job of walking readers through the history of palliative care and showing the current and potential future of the profession.”
“An illustrious group of scholars, doctors, nurses, chaplains, and ethicists joins together to offer robust—and indispensable—insight into health and healing. The Pursuit of Life is a vigorous and vital resource for anyone in the position of being a caregiver.”
The Pursuit of Life offers a teaching not just on how to die well but also on how to live well in the face of suffering and death. The insights offered by this distinguished cadre of writers shed light on health and healing alongside living and dying.”
“This is a beautiful, diverse, wise book about the experience of working in palliative care and the personal, collegial, cultural, ethical, moral, practical, and clinical challenges that clinicians practicing in our field confront. The editors and authors have crafted a deep portrait of what it means to work in the liminal space between life and death in palliative care.”
“This remarkable collection of essays explores the range and depth of human caring for people with life-threatening illness. In caring well, we can alleviate suffering and preserve people’s capacity to grow—inwardly and together—through the end of life. This is the gift that palliative care brings in service to the gift of life itself.”
The Pursuit of Life is an impressive and immensely important collection which addresses the history, nuances, and status of palliative care while also posturing future directions. It contributes significantly to the burgeoning field of medical humanities and explores multivalent trajectories which are nobly aimed at easing suffering. I commend this thought-provoking and compassionate book to all who are dedicated to this goal.”
“Bioethicists have contributed to and may learn from these insightful essays on the origins, meaning, and future of palliative care. This magnificent volume, at the intersection of secular bioethics, spirituality, religion, and narrative medicine, will speak to all health professionals and laypersons who care about human flourishing through life’s end.”
“This original book approaches the discussion of palliative care from both a clinical and classically academic perspective. It is rare to find a history of program development adjacent to a discussion of how the themes of Odysseus highlight the issues of suffering and compassion.”
“An important addition to health science collections and libraries at colleges with strong nursing programs.”

Robert Fine, MD, MACP, FAAHPM, HEC-C, is the Director of Clinical Ethics and Supportive Palliative Care at Baylor Scott and White Health. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, teaches, and publishes widely in ethics and palliative care with a particular focus on medical futility.

Jack Levison, PhD, holds the W. J. A. Power Chair of Old Testament Interpretation and Biblical Hebrew at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. He is the author of many books, including most recently A Boundless God: The Spirit According to the Old Testament and The Holy Spirit Before Christianity.

Foreword, Diane E. Meier


Introduction, Robert Fine and Jack Levison

Palliative Care: Personal Memoirs

1. Evolution of Palliative Nursing: Art, Science, and Collaboration, Constance Dahlin

2. The Challenge of Bringing Palliative Medicine and Person-Centered Care to Large Hospitals and Universities, Eduardo Bruera

3. The Evolutionary Relationship of Oncology and

Palliative Care: A Personal Journey, Neil MacDonald

4. Palliative Medicine: A Personal Journey, Declan Walsh

Palliative Care: Pain and Suffering

5. Time to Death: Chronos, Kairos, and the “Longest Distance Between Two Poles,” Joseph J. Fins

6. Teaching Clinicians to Read: How Narrative Medicine Prepares Clinicians for Palliative Care, Kathryn B. Kirkland

7. Sophocles, Hospice, and the Call of the Body, Joseph Calandrino

Palliative Care: Essential Issues

8. What Is Autonomy and What Is It Good For?, Daniel P. Sulmasy

9. Human Flourishing and Palliative Care: Autonomy, Mortality, and Rationality, Robin W. Lovin

10. The Robin Hood of Opioids: Palliative Care in the Underdeveloped World, James Cleary

11. Overcoming the Devastation Caused by Cultivated Ignorance About Pain and Opioid Addiction, Constantino Benedetti

12. Artificial Intelligence in Palliative Care: An Integral Look into the Future of Our End, Dominique J. Monlezun

Palliative Care: The Caregiver

13. A Spiritual Environment of Caring, Courtenay R. Bruce, Stacy L. Auld, and Charles R. Millikan

14. Preparing Spiritual Caregivers: Personal Reflections, Practical Advice, and Helpful Programs, W. Andrew Achenbaum

15. Palliative Care: A Chaplain’s Perspective, Bettie Jo Tennon Hightower

16. Lucia’s Dream: A Holistic Approach to Adolescents with Cancer, Tullio Proserpio, Elena Pagani Bagliacca, Giovanna Sironi, and Andrea Ferrari


The Marialuisa Lectureship for Life: A Brief Introduction, Mauro Ferrari

Download a PDF sample chapter here: Introduction