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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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The choir is sure to enjoy this impassioned preaching on familiar progressive themes.

SORRY NOT SORRY

Essays on current political topics by a high-profile actor and activist.

Milano explains in an introduction that she began writing this uneven collection while dealing with a severe case of Covid-19 and suffering from "persistent brain fog.” In the first essay, "On Being Unapologetically Fucked Up,” the author begins by fuming over a February 2019 incident in which she compared MAGA caps worn by high school kids to KKK hoods. She then runs through a grab bag of flash-point news items (police shootings, border crimes, sexual predators in government), deploying the F-bomb with abandon and concluding, "What I know is that fucked up is as fundamental a state of the world as night and day. But I know there is better. I know that ‘less fucked up’ is a state we can live in.” The second essay, "Believe Women," discusses Milano’s seminal role in the MeToo movement; unfortunately, it is similarly conversational in tone and predictable in content. One of the few truly personal essays, "David," about the author's marriage, refutes the old saw about love meaning never having to say you're sorry, replacing it with "Love means you can suggest a national sex strike and your husband doesn't run away screaming." Milano assumes, perhaps rightly, that her audience is composed of followers and fans; perhaps these readers will know what she is talking about in the seemingly allegorical "By Any Other Name," about her bad experience with a certain rosebush. "Holy shit, giving birth sucked," begins one essay. "Words are weird, right?" begins the next. "Welp, this is going to piss some of you off. Hang in there," opens a screed about cancel culture—though she’s entirely correct that “it’s childish, divisive, conceited, and Trumpian to its core.” By the end, however, Milano's intelligence, compassion, integrity, and endurance somewhat compensate for her lack of literary polish.

The choir is sure to enjoy this impassioned preaching on familiar progressive themes.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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