Good general practice is the cornerstone of a good healthcare system: Australia is blessed with both. Leah Kaminsky has been a Melbourne general practitioner for three decades and by her own explicit admission wrote We’re All Going to Die as a way to address her own fear of death. Her beloved mother was ‘the only leaf left dangling from her charred family tree, having survived the horrors of Bergen-Belsen’. She emigrated to Australia with a single suitcase and a butterfly marcasite brooch, now worn by Kaminsky in remembrance. Kaminsky’s parents met in Melbourne, worked hard, made do, like many in the Jewish community. They wanted Kaminsky to become a lawyer, where her capacity of empathy may have been stifled, wasted. Fortunately, she chose to do medicine. Thousands of patients in Melbourne have every reason to applaud her choice.
The book’s front cover, among the butterflies, bears a quote from the New York Times by Mary Roach, best-selling author of the unfortunately titled Stiff (2003): ‘A beautiful, brave, inspiring work. Required reading for anyone who plans to die.’ This is routine gush: the book is engaging but by no stretch of the imagination beautiful, the eye of the beholder notwithstanding. It is brave, in that the author examines her own fears and responses, openly, frankly, and self-critically. Inspiring no, but a very useful book for ‘anyone who plans to die’, and who might need help for a besetting fear of death, as shared by the author.