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How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter, New Edition Paperback – January 15, 1995


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How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter, New Edition + How We Live + The Art of Aging: A Doctor's Prescription for Well-Being
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (January 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679742441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679742449
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 1994 NBA nonfiction winner, Yale physician Nuland's study of the clinical, biological and emotional details of dying was a 14-week PW bestseller.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Drawing upon his own broad experience and the characteristics of the six most common death-causing diseases, Nuland examines what death means to the doctor, patient, nurse, administrator, and family. Thought provoking and humane, his is not the usual syrup-and-generality approach to this well-worn topic. Fundamental to it are Nuland's experiences with the deaths of his aunt, his older brother, and a longtime patient. With each of these deaths, he made what he now sees as mistakes of denial, false hope, and refusal to abide by a patient's wishes. Disease, not death, is the real enemy, he reminds us, despite the facts that most deaths are unpleasant, painful, or agonized, and to argue otherwise is to plaster over the truth. The doctor, Nuland stresses, should instill in dying patients the hope not for a miraculous cure but for the dignity and high quality of the remainder of their lives as well as of what they have meant--and will continue to mean--to family, friends, and colleagues. Nuland also has strong feelings about suicide and "assisted death": the doctor should be prepared psychologically and practically to help the longtime patient slip off the scene in relative comfort. William Beatty --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Sherwin B. Nuland is Clinical Professor of Surgery at Yale University School of Medicine and a Fellow at Yale's Institute for Social and Policy Studies. He is the author of over ten books, including the National Book Award-winning, HOW WE DIE: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter, an inquiry into the causes and modes of death that spent 34 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. In addition he is a contributor to leading publications including the New Yorker, the New Republic, and the New York Review of Books.

Customer Reviews

Very informative book.
AHJ
This book can be a tough read, but it's a good primer on what to expect.
tides24
Few of us can control the way in which we die.
Duwayne Anderson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

548 of 557 people found the following review helpful By Duwayne Anderson on July 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Humans are probably the only animals capable of understanding their mortality and envisioning the day of their death. Sherwin B. Nuland shows, however, that while we conceptualize our eventual demise, most people have unrealistic expectations of their death. Misconceptions abound. The expectation of a noble death with loved ones gathered, final farewells, and then eternal slumber forms a common though inaccurate mental image of what many people look forward to in their final moments.
There are several themes that permeate Nuland's books. One theme is that death, like birth, is a messy process. Though we may wish for the noble death, more likely we will die slowly from a lack of oxygen in the brain. This, in turn, will result from a failing heart, lungs, or blood vessels. Death does not come easy, and although the final moment is sometime serene and tranquil, months or weeks of painful physical degeneration often precedes it.
The second theme in Nuland's book is that death is not only inevitable, it is necessary. While life should be fought for as long as possible, we should all realize that ultimately the battle will be lost. We will die. Nuland takes a dim view of heroic attempts to extend life beyond the point where the body has simply failed and death becomes not only inevitable, but also the proper way for nature to renew herself. Nature uses death to clear the way for new generations, and just as we cannot experience the green buds of spring unless the leaves from last season fall to the ground, the very nature of life demands that when death becomes inevitable we exit the stage for the next generation.
Nuland's third point is that the measure of a life is not found so much in how we die, but in how we live and how we are remembered.
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162 of 165 people found the following review helpful By Toller Girl on February 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure what made me read "How We Die". It just appeared on my reader's radar a couple of years ago. First let me say that what I came away with was a profound sense of the awesomeness of human life and death, especially the awesomeness of physical death. The author explains in careful and graphic detail what happens to the body's systems under various scenarios that eventually result in the inevitable death of the body. Strangely, this information was more embracing and empowering than depressing and sad. Somehow, the knowledge of WHAT really happens when we die frees me to move on to HOW I feel about it and how I can deal with it. For me, the book stripped much of the power from various traditional, political, religous, legal, societal, and familial interpretations of this event, and allowed me to start to think it through for myself. Long after I finished the book, I found myself reflecting on the information presented by the author, and more importantly, digging deeply into my own psyche and soul to uncover what I really feel and believe. When my father died last year, I felt able to observe and participate in the process with less fear and dread, and more of a sense of power than if I had never read the book. While the events and circumstance of his illness and eventual death were extremely sad and difficult, I credit this book (and the mental and emotional effort I put into reading and reflecting on it) with allowing me to accept the fact that my father was going to die, and to deal with everything that had to be dealt with. Thank you, Dr. Nuland.
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158 of 167 people found the following review helpful By David J. Gannon on March 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
What actually happens during "clinical death"? Why do we age, and what happens to the body? This National Book Award winner Particularly recommended for anyone in a position to explain these difficult processes to others. This award-winning account describes in frank yet compassionate detail just what most of us are likely to face when the time comes, Sherwin B. Nuland's How We Die combines erudition and eloquence in a refreshingly unsentimental look at the processes of death. A distinguished surgeon and gifted writer, Nuland illuminates the mechanisms of cancer, heart attack, AIDS, and Alzheimer's disease with precision and compassionate awareness.
Why read such a book? Taking away the fear of the unknown can bring courage and peace in the face of a difficult time. This book presents unpleasant facts in simple language that anyone can understand.
Chapters cover different types of death, making clear the physiological changes and medical choices that go along with each one. It addresses both medical and emotional realities of common conditions such as cancer, heart disease, AIDS, Alzheimer's, severe trauma, and just plain wearing out. (Be prepared to cry, since reading this book may make you experience feelings associated with people you love.)
What makes this book such compelling reading is that Nuland brings to this subject all of the depth and breadth of his background AND his deep concern for the human condition. His long career at a high-powered academic medical center (Yale), his knowledge of the history of medicine, of literature and philosophy, and his own personal losses are all woven into his thesis.
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