A CHOSEN DEATH by Lonny Shavelson


The Dying Confront Assisted Suicide
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 Extraordinary portraits of five dying people who contemplate ending their own lives, sensitively and movingly written by a physician who has thought long and hard about the issue of assisted suicide. Shavelson, who combines careers in medicine and journalism, encountered assisted suicide early: When he was 14, his mother, suffering from Crohn's disease and depression, made him promise to help her end her life should she so wish (she's still alive). Spurred by the response to Derek Humphry's Final Exit and the public debate over Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Shavelson contacted family support organizations and hospices for the dying to find his subjects. Each has a unique story. Renee Sahm, a resourceful woman with brain cancer, has two plans: (a) to fight for survival and (b) to kill herself. Shavelson anguishes at her bedside when she takes the fatal dose of liquid morphine and vodka. Pierre Nadeau, a proud and body-conscious young trapeze artist with AIDS, at first seems determined to commit suicide at a certain point of bodily deterioration. His story reveals not only how the dying continually redefine what they can live with but how the gay community handles assisted suicide. When Gene Robbins, a lonely widower who fears a third disabling stroke, contacts the Hemlock Society for information on how to kill himself, he gets not just brochures but some surprising personal assistance. This disturbing account of an overeager free-lance practitioner of euthanasia is the only one in which Shavelson uses pseudonymns. In recounting the poignant story of Kelly Niles, a 33-year-old quadraplegic who decides his life is no longer bearable and that starvation is his only way out, the author explores the rights of the disabled. In the final and perhaps most heart-rending story, a terminally ill woman chooses suicide but only after she and her family have their last farewells. A powerful argument in favor of legalizing assisted suicide, reinforced by haunting photographs taken by the author.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-80100-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995


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