The history and evolution of the controversial death-with-dignity movement.
Social historian Côté (City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886, 2005, etc.) contends that one’s right to a peaceful, elective death has been contentious subject matter for as long as agonizing end-stage diseases have been extinguishing lives. With the average life span expanding each year, this also prolongs the time it takes to die, which can result in an excruciatingly painful experience. Côté shares the complicated story of longtime friend George Exoo, a gay reverend and fierce death-with-dignity champion who was incarcerated and considered an accessory to murder by Irish police after he became a “euthanasia exit guide” to a desperate, suicidal woman. He thoughtfully profiles pioneering self-deliverance proponents like Hemlock Society founder and Final Exit author Derek Humphry, infamous defender of physician-assisted suicide Jack Kevorkian and Philip “Peaceful Pill” Nitschke. He also highlights the highly publicized plight of Terri Schiavo and the struggles of everyday people, stateside and internationally, in achieving the right to a more sympathetic delivery from a painful life. Though descriptions of suicidal methods—including helium-filled “exit bags” that fit over the head and Kevorkian’s “Thanatron” and “Mercitron” devices—make for grim reading, Côté’s research intensifies and personalizes the “rational elective death” movement through a wealth of interviews, authoritative medical professional testimonies and comprehensive analysis of complex legal and political positions.
A hot-button issue intelligently scrutinized.