Living with Mortality
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 A provocative analysis of how our attitudes toward our own mortality underlie society's health-care policies, especially regarding care of the dying and termination of medical treatment, as well as laws on living wills, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. These issues have long concerned medical ethicist Callahan (What Kind of Life, 1990, etc.), but, here, his focus shifts from legal and policy questions to the relationship of death to the self, as well as to nature, society, and modern medicine. The author examines some of our present ``illusions''--that death can be eliminated by eradicating lethal diseases; that we can manage both our selves and technology well enough to select the moment when medical treatment should be halted; that euthanasia or assisted suicide is an acceptable way to achieve a peaceful death. He targets what he terms the ``mistaken belief'' that control over one's life is a necessary condition of self-worth, as well as the notion that death is a great evil. For Callahan, death is an unavoidable part of life, acceptable when neither biologically nor morally wrong. His concluding chapter deals with the pursuit of a peaceful death, which he defines at some length in specific personal, medical, and social terms. The goal of a peaceful death, he says, should be an integral part of medicine- -but he cautions that this isn't likely to happen outside of a supportive cultural and economic context. Callahan believes that public ambivalence and confusion about the proper stance toward death shape medicine's viewpoint and, in turn, are shaped by it. As he sees it, the task is to create a new cultural understanding of death that will help define our social policies. Well-considered and convincing arguments designed to stimulate private thought and public discussion; of special interest to medical ethicists and health-care policy-makers.

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-70830-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993