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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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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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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