KAREN ANN QUINLAN: Dying in the Age of Eternal Life by B. D. Colen
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KAREN ANN QUINLAN: Dying in the Age of Eternal Life

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This disturbing, often angry investigation of America's view of death and dying is fortunately far removed from the too-timely title. The author, a reporter for the Washington Post, reviews the Quinlan case through interviews and discussions of peripheral concerns which lead to the ethical, religious, and legal questions the case has stimulated. Like her father, Colen feels that Karen's death, not her life, was being prolonged by the use of machines which maintained ""the bundle of basic reflexes and nerves housed in the shell"" of a human being. Discontinuance was not euthanasia because nothing had been done then to hasten the natural process of her dying. Neither is it ""passive euthanasia,"" for discontinuance was a conscious act to ""allow death."" What may seem at first to be semantic hair-splitting becomes meaningful as Colen launches on a startling series of interviews and observations of physicians, nurses, social workers, patients, and relatives who have had to come to grips with the concepts and realities of death, ""dignity,"" and ""quality of life."" Every day, unpublicized decisions are being made in the light of these same concepts and realities: ""In the quiet privacy of the operating room or intensive care unit, an assessment is made, an order given, a switch thrown."" Colen hears doctors tell about deformed infants--or a quadraplegic who can both hear and speak--allowed to die. He has also watched medical students laughing and popping soda cans while a film of a dying woman's request for discontinuance plays on unattended. A meandering, restless study which raises questions with the intensity and seriousness the subject demands.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Nash (1 DuPont St., Plainview, N.Y. 11803)