There have been so many books on this subject this year one hardly knows where to lay one's confused head: two books on Vital Signs; Robert Butler's Why Survive (p. 270)--the work of the greatest political and social consequence; Dr. Heifetz' The Right to Die (p. 423) with which Mr. Dempsey would disagree since he takes the most negative stance on euthanasia we've seen recently (with some justification--who's to be ""vetoed out"" by whom?). Overall Dempsey discusses the stations of the cross with which we're so familiar: the terminal cases plugged into a machine rather than a cosmos which includes God; the games doctors, nurses and patients play; the wonderful, expensive, scarce, life-sustaining equipment and spare parts; how children react to death, including the possibility of their own, etc. Dempsey takes a different, kinder, not always fashionable position on telling the patient the whole truth and nothing but--""Denial is the answer, a basic psychological defense"" for many people, Kubler-Ross notwithstanding; he also indicates the positive effect--for the bereaved--of the funeral and the cemetery in a country of diminishing terrain. But do you want to go so far as to accept that Waughsome disfiguration ""Forest Lawn. . . is. . . the land of the living"" merely because it bustles with tourists? Dempsey, a seasoned writer, has researched widely and handled his material with his usual ease--and if there are differences of opinion, that's O.K. too since he's dealing, after all, with difficult questions and sanctions.