Notes on Life and Death
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 Idiosyncratic musings of an intellectual, humanistic Dutch physician working in a nursing home for the terminally ill, where physician-assisted suicide is accepted as a way of death. Keizer, who has a degree in philosophy from Nottingham University in England, thinks long and often about the human condition. References to Wittgenstein, Kafka, Wilde, Beckett, and Conrad pepper his text. While death is a pervasive theme, the irreverent Keizer airs his opinions freely about a variety of topics: God (doesn't exist), the practice of medicine (``that biochemical Lourdes, that inextricable amalgam of prayer, iodine, incense, fear of death, and molecules''), alternative therapies (lack a rational basis), the placebo effect (pervasive in medicine), cancer research (billions of dollars wasted), and doctors' powers over life and death (greatly overestimated). There's something here to offend, intrigue, or delight just about everyone. As for euthanasia, Keizer has two commandments: Never do it to ease the suffering of the spectators, and never do it in a hurry. Originally published as fiction in the Netherlands, these memoirs are loosely based on Keizer's diaries and letters, with changes made to protect patients' privacy. The author appears in them as Anton, a pesky gadfly who asks tough questions of his professional colleagues, talks about death with his dying patients, and frequents a nearby graveyard at lunchtime. Keizer did the English translation himself, which may account for the sometimes odd blend of conversational and formal styles. Those looking for a clear path through the euthanasia maze will not find it here; they will, however, meet a unique and curious mind, possessed by a physician with a conscience, which is always a pleasure.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-48497-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997