An impartial account of Oregon’s seminal role in assisted suicide.

POLITICS OF DEATH

Political scientist Kirtley details the impassioned birth of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.

Kirtley’s book opens with a quote from the philosopher Epicurus: “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.” How one defines dying well sets the tone for the work’s contentious debate over assisted suicide. In 1993, a physician, an attorney, a nurse and the Hemlock Society introduced the Oregon Death With Dignity Act in an effort to pass legislation that would allow physicians to prescribe legal lethal medications to terminally ill adults who had six months or less to live. The author expertly portrays the brouhaha that ensued from individuals and special interest groups such as Physicians For Compassionate Care (conservative) and Compassion in Dying (advocates for choice). With many references cited, and without bias, Kirtley details the arguments supporters and detractors presented in court battles. Weighty issues, such as government interference in end-of-life choices, Oregon residency requirements, the availability of injections versus pills and the risk of family members coercing loved ones to hasten their death, were at the forefront of the discourse that finally landed in the Supreme Court. Kirtley’s tightly constructed prose is drenched in facts, figures and legalese; it’s accessible to all, but an easier read for attorneys than laypeople. He skillfully exposes the fervor of both sides, showing social conservatives likening the bill to Hitler’s euthanasia of the retarded, insane and elderly, and liberals telling Attorney General John Ashcroft, who attempted to overturn the bill, to keep his hands out of the death business. Oregon citizens twice voted in favor of the law, and physician-assisted suicide became legal in October 1997. The Supreme Court upheld the law in January 2006 after repeated attempts were made to repeal it. The book’s last pages offer firsthand accounts from the terminally ill, lending a human element to the hot-button issue. Surprising factoids—in 2011, 25 patients out of 114 never took their lethal legal prescription, and some patients awakened even after ingesting the lethal dose—spark further discussion.

An impartial account of Oregon’s seminal role in assisted suicide.

Pub Date: June 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1470045401

Page Count: 164

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2012

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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