THE FINAL RIGHT by Doris Portwood


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The issue of rational suicide for the elderly, of choosing death when disability or disease diminishes everyday functioning, achieved prominence with the publication of Marya Mannes' passionately argued Last Rights (1974). Yet many people continue to resist the concept, and Norman Cousins has given expression to this paradox: ""Why are so many people more readily appalled by an unnatural form of dying than by an unnatural form of living?"" Portwood argues the issue again, although without the political ""rights"" overtones, from a somewhat different perspective: that of the over-65 women, like herself, who comprise such a large proportion of the elderly. She maintains that the image of a serene old age is a fiction; health and solvency are enduring preoccupations, loss of powers an abiding shadow. She questions the validity of the Christian value-in-suffering thesis and introduces Hoche's balance-sheet idea. And she looks briefly at historical practices, fringe benefits and the effects on survivors, the difficulties of accomplishment (women fail more often than men), and practical alternatives to consider. Gently persuasive, and the proceeds, if sufficient, may go to a mutual aid organization to further the cause.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1978
Publisher: Dodd, Mead