A WAY TO DIE by Rosemary & Victor Zorza Zorza


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Interest in the hospice concept--a regimen of care for the terminally ill which aims at improving the quality of life during the last weeks or months--is on the increase generally; and this testimony by the parents of a 25-year-old cancer victim should serve as a strong endorsement. As she passes from the initial diagnosis of melanoma, through weeks of pain, operations, and treatment, to a brief home stay and then the hospice, Jane's aggressively independent mind suspects, resists, and finally accepts the knowledge that she is dying. Her parents are still agonizing over discussing her incipient death with her when a respected family doctor relieves them of the responsibility. Jane cries, has her hair tidied, pays a last sad visit to the garden. At St. Christopher's hospice, the massive use of drugs at last ""breaks the cycle of pain and fear."" Jane is helped to be comfortable and clear-headed; and at her request not to be left alone, family, friends, and a loving staff attend her. Death is openly discussed, and old debts--of guilt, jealousy, resentment--are ""paid off"" through honest talks between parent and child, brother and sister. Her father, who had secrets about his horrifying past in Poland and Russia to share, examines his own fear of death in the light of Jane's serenity, and the two find a new closeness. Jane's death, her parents write, was ""slow and gentle. . . . Her retreat had been strangely beautiful to watch."" The Zorzas have come to terms with a family tragedy through a structured view of dying as a positive act; not all, of course, would agree, or put the value they do on our forebears' goal to ""make a good end."" And there are those who might be bothered that the Zorzas were and are non-religious (the hospice directors were Christian). But this account presents the central ideal of the hospice movement, as the Zorzas saw it, in vigorous and inspiring actuality.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1980
Publisher: Knopf