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Image: Louis Armstrong

The Creative Arts in Palliative Care
Edited by Nigel Hartley and Malcolm Payne,
ISBN 9781843105916
Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2008

Reviewed by Joanne Loewy DA, MT-BC, LCAT, Director
The Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine
Mount Sinai Beth Israel

The Creative Arts in Palliative Care is a forward-thinking text which integrates management, treatment and community building aspects of creative arts in palliative care. My first impression of the book was that it would be too general for creative arts therapists and I wondered how the editors could responsibly, ethically and effectively blend therapists, artists and volunteers’ perspectives into a comprehensive service and subsequent focused text. As I read the book, my fears were dispelled not only through the generous historical understanding of the Supportive Care legacy that has developed at St Christopher’s Hospice through the past forty years, but also through the continuous adherence to the view that the editors take in seeking to understand the role that the arts play in the continuum of life and community.

Nigel Hartley’s (2) opening presentation through a self hermeneutic of how his musical performance training led him to examine the dynamics of his own relationship with art (p.25) serves as an honest heart-felt inquiry. This serves as exemplar for any clinician to consider, especially those who venture into using the ‘self’ in an art-dynamic relationship in end of life care.

The notion of exhibiting arts to market opportunity is an important aspect of this book, and the examples of the many ways that the arts can be brought into educating the community (especially children) about life and death is new and novel. The fact that perhaps there are missed opportunities when the ‘product’ (a recording or piece of art) is spared exhibition in the name of protecting the confidentiality of the process is well taken. I highly recommend The Creative Arts in Palliative Care. This book is a must read for artists, therapists, volunteers, managers and directors who specialize in working with patients and caregivers who are facing end of life. The theories, detailed case studies, methods, models and ‘how-to’ hands on experiences presented throughout the pages of this book are generous and have far reaching implications which cross social and spiritual domains of treatment, development, marketing and program-community building aspects of palliative care.

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