BJ Miller is a hospice and palliative care doctor who became interested in the field after nearly dying as a student at Princeton University. It was in the middle of the night one night. He was out with pals when, as they crossed the railroad track, he climbed on top of a two-car commuter train that had been stopped for the night and was electrocuted by 11,000 volts. Both legs below the knees and half an arm were amputated as a result of the injuries.
Miller is now a palliative care physician at the UCSF Cancer Center. From 2011 to 2016 he was executive director of the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco. He and Shoshana Berger co-wrote the new book “A Beginner’s Guide To The End: Practical Advice for living life and coping with death”, and founded the Center for Dying and Living. This is an early-stage website that allows users to post their own stories of living with illness, disability, or pain or caring for those who suffer from it.
Inspiring Talks by BJ Miller
- “Leaning into the subject of suffering, leaning into the subject of mortality, was directly therapeutic for me. It wasn’t an intellectual interest or a recreational thought…Getting through my day required me to lean into it, and that’s where I just saw all this beauty that comes from it.“
- “By facing mortality, it seems to inform how you live. So, the secret is that facing death has a lot to do with living well…“
- “Let death be what takes us, not lack of imagination.“
- “You can always find a shock of beauty or meaning in what life you have left.“
- “People think you’re Jesus because you’ve gone through something special. They treat you like you’ve got special knowledge, or they treat you a little bit like Frankenstein. Of course, those two responses are related. Neither of them is accurate. But that’s the kind of vibe you can get — a lot of us who have disabilities know very well.”
- “Leaning into the subject of suffering, leaning into the subject of mortality, was directly therapeutic for me.”
- “It wasn’t an intellectual interest or a recreational thought…Getting through my day required me to lean into it, and that’s where I just saw all this beauty that comes from it.”
- “By facing mortality, it seems to inform how you live. So, the secret is that facing death has a lot to do with living well.”
- “We make something normal, we call it a problem, we pathologize it, and then we go to war with it. Sometimes that works pretty well, and oftentimes it works not at all. In the case with the end of life and death, it’s a mix.”
- “Medical science and our understanding of health have advanced, and we are able to live longer, and we have pushed back on nature in all sorts of ways that I’m happy for…But the bad news is we just keep orphaning this subject of death, and it becomes less and less familiar and then more and more surprising and gets harder and harder than it needs to be.”