This thoughtful guide presents an informed discussion of modern-day issues related to dying.
Sooner or later, there’s death—of friends, family and, ultimately, yourself. Murdock, a health policy consultant, deals with this inevitability in a well-balanced book that’s practical without being preachy. She covers the personal side of death, including family background, religious beliefs, values and attitudes, along with the medical care, palliative care and legal choices one needs to make. Her explanations of death-related documents, such as living wills and advance medical directives, are particularly helpful. Equally instructive is a section she entitles “What Are the Problems?” where Murdock addresses both internal and external problems associated with dying—“internal, in which control is often within your reach, and external, where the problem is out of your control and something you have to accept.” While her categorization of the specific internal versus external problems is admittedly subjective, the terrain she covers is essential. For example, Murdock writes about the importance of informed consent, the discrimination same-sex couples may face, the cost of care at the end of life and the potential for family disagreement (“too many stories about dying are a result of longstanding family dissonance, conflict, and dysfunction”). The author lays out each topic clearly, offering an unbiased perspective, writing in an unemotional voice and referencing research where appropriate. The last section of the book, “Learning from Other People’s Experiences,” is a powerful collection of four stories of dying that demonstrates the end-of-life decisions people and their families must make. In addition to a comprehensive bibliography, Murdock includes a useful selection of resources for “consumer discussion about dying and for advance care planning.” The author also developed “My Health Care Wishes,” a mobile app that acts as a central repository for advance care planning.
Deftly written, highly informative and contemporary; opens the door to much-needed dialogue around a sensitive subject.