THE GOOD DEATH by Marilyn Webb


The New American Search to Reshape the End of Life
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 An impressive attempt to clarify the complex political, ethical, legal, and medical factors impacting the American way of death and care of the dying. Originating as an article called ``The Art of Dying'' for New York magazine, this work draws on research into both the dying process and the right-to-die controversy. Webb, a former editor-in- chief of Psychology Today, argues with considerable passion and great effectiveness that ``if we are to have good deaths, the culture of dying must change.'' She attended medical training seminars, visited hospitals, hospices, and palliative-care centers, and interviewed numerous dying patients and their families, doctors and clerics, lawyers and ethicists, conservatives and liberals, and such prominent figures as Dr. Jack Kevorkian and Elizabeth KÅbler-Ross. That dying well is possible is shown in her first chapter, featuring a young woman who, after a roller coaster ride of hope and despair prompted by various treatments for her cancer, chose to die at home, in peace, surrounded by her family. That such a death is difficult to achieve is demonstrated by most of the remaining chapters. Pain management is not well understood by many physicians, extreme treatments can prolong the dying process, families of the terminally ill often bear heavy financial and emotional burdens, the wishes of dying patients and their families are frequently overlooked, and hospice care may offer too little too late. Webb spells out the details in human stories. She also tackles the legal isues, from the Karen Ann Quinlan case of the 1970s to the latest Supreme Court decision that assisted suicide is not a constitutional right. Webb concludes with the ten major reforms-- including legalization and strict regulation of assisted suicide--that she believes are essential if a good death is to become the rule, not the exception. A noteworthy contribution to the continuing public debate over an issue that touches everyone.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1997
ISBN: 0-553-09555-2
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997


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