Thoughtful conversations with friends and foes of the death-with-dignity movement.

In a companion to a TV documentary, the longtime NPR host and podcaster interviews terminally ill patients and others about end-of-life choices.

One in five Americans lives in a jurisdiction that allows terminally ill adults to request “medical aid in dying,” the term many experts prefer to “assisted suicide.” Rehm (On My Own, 2016, etc.) became a champion of the swiftly growing right-to-die movement after her first husband, ravaged by Parkinson’s disease, begged doctors in vain for help ending his life. In the gently probing interviews collected here, the author discusses the pros and cons with people who have seen the effects at close range: patients, relatives, physicians, clergy, hospice administrators, and others. An African Methodist Episcopal pastor explains why he opposed the death-with-dignity law in Washington, D.C., given its potential for use against blacks. Dan Diaz recalls the upheavals his wife, Brittany, faced when they moved to Oregon so she could end her life after a diagnosis of terminal cancer; amid the devastating news, she had to find a house to rent and get a new driver’s license and voter registration card to establish residency. Other interviews in the book, which features a foreword by John Grisham, focus on a variety of relevant questions: Who qualifies for medical aid in dying? What life-ending medicines do doctors prescribe? How long does it take to die after you ingest them? Several contributors give similar answers to the same question, which at times grows repetitious but suggests the variations around the country. For gravely ill patients, a vital point is that securing aid in dying involves paperwork, a waiting period, and finding two doctors willing to help. These safeguards can have heartbreaking results for anyone who puts off making a decision. The approval process takes an average of about one month, notes the president of the group Compassion & Choices, “and about half the people die before that.”

Thoughtful conversations with friends and foes of the death-with-dignity movement.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65475-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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