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To Die Well: Your Right to Comfort, Calm, and Choice in the Last Days of Life [Paperback]

Sidney Wanzer , Joseph Glenmullen
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 26, 2008 073821163X 978-0738211633 1
Knowing our rights to refuse treatment, and ways to bring death earlier if pain or distress cannot be alleviated, will spare us the frightening helplessness that can rob our last days of meaning and personal connection. Drs. Wanzer and Glenmullen clarify what patients should insist of their doctors, including the right to enough pain medication even if it shortens life. Everyone needs their wise and comforting advice.

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To Die Well: Your Right to Comfort, Calm, and Choice in the Last Days of Life + The Best Way to Say Goodbye: A Legal Peaceful Choice At the End of Life
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A leader in the rigiht-to-die movement, Wanzer advocates measures that allow patients to control decisions about end-of-life treatment and ensure a peaceful death. . With the help of Harvard Medical School faculty member Glenmullen (The Antidepressant Solution), Wanzer, himself the former head of Harvard University Law School Health Services, provide clear legal and medical guidelines for the terminally ill and their loved ones who are facing these decisions. Drawing on case histories, the author outlines the rights of patients, advises them on how to appoint a health care proxy and on ways to refuse unwanted treatments. Wanzer also supports opting for only comfort care, in which the focus is on minimizing pain and making patients comfortable. . Although he empasizes the need to differentiate between a terminally ill patient’s rational decision to end his or her life and suicidal depression, Wanzer argues that when someone is in uncontrollable pain with no hope of improvement, hastening death—through large doses of morphine, refusal of fluids or inhaling helium—should be an option. Wanzer and Glenmuller clearly delineate a patient’s rights, including the right to refuse treatment, and provide information on appointing a health-care proxy, among other options. They provide a wealth of information on a matter most of us would rather not think about.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Journal of the American Medical Association
"Brings needed hope and comfort to those who are near death and to those who attend the dying and are responsible for ensuring that a good death is possible. The book will appeal to patients, their families, and their caregivers. A fascinating book, rich with clinical stories. Gently and compassionately written."
Milwaukee Magazine, March 2011
“Wanzer makes a strong case for allowing people greater choices in how they die.”

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1 edition (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 073821163X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738211633
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #415,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Medical commonsense at last ! April 10, 2007
At last! Two doctors have written a right-to-die book with the patients' interests first. Very readable by the lay person, bundles of good advice on how a patient's best interests should be protected, and straightforward reporting on euthanasia and assisted suicide. Recommend for instant reading, and filing away for future problems. -- Derek Humphry ('Final Exit')
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
TO DIE WELL: YOUR RIGHT TO COMFORT, CALM, AND CHOICE IN THE LAST DAYS OF LIFE comes from a leader in the right-to-die movement, and a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who offer insights on turning points in a dying patient's life: one when no reasonable expectation of a cure is possible, the second involving hastening death - the subject of this book. TO DIE WELL focuses on patient rights, physician involvement, and how to stay in control of advance directives. It promises to be an essential addition not just for medical libraries, but for general-interest collections.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Die Well: excellent book - but is it practical? October 17, 2008
As a card-carrying member of two organizations advocating euthanasia, I am gratified that two MDs took the trouble to write a comprehensive book about the subject. They discuss the moral, legal, and the how-to of this controversial subject. Especially significant are the chapters guiding readers about their right to refuse food and hydration, and using helium to bring about their self-deliverance.

Dr. Wanzer is a compassionate physician. He describes his hour-long discussions with patients and their caregivers in their homes and at hospitals. He often refers to the rights of dying patients to dismiss their non-cooperating physicians even when they are already in a hospital, and choosing a more empathetic doctor. The sad reality is that doctors stopped making house call quite a while ago, and found a way around treating their patients in hospitals. They are adamant about seeing patients in their offices for only 15 minutes, which allows precious little time to discuss the various options and methods to exit this world. Medicare (and the majority of dying patients carry this insurance) does not even compensate physicians for discussing questions about imminent death.

On page 145 the authors describe how to "avoid unwanted resuscitative measures." Absent clear instructions prepared beforehand, they advocate that the family avoid calling 911. But if that has been done, they suggest calling the patient's physician to deal with the responding emergency team. In over four decades of living in San Francisco, I have never had physicians answer my call personally. When I was lucky, they returned my call after office hours. Having called 911 makes it is essential for the family to speak to the doctor the moment they are connected to the office.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This book should be on the shelf of everyone who thinks he or she might indeed die some day, and on the shelves of caregivers and hospice volunteers and end-of-life professionals everywhere as well. It is honest, easily readable and crammed with useful information every thinking person should have. The authors identify the times - introducing the helpful concept of "turning points" - which most of us will encounter as our health declines, and outline how we can take charge of our lives by recognizing these times. The first is when "there is no reasonable expectation of a cure or of restoring health;" the second is when the prospect of hastening death may appropriately be considered. While the authors are physicians, and some of the writing seems aimed toward physician-readers, the book is for everyone and accessible for the lay reader. Its point-by-point instructions on patient rights and hypothetical situations will enable dying individuals and/or their families to be better informed of potential choices and to remain in control of their own lives. It is this recognition of the individual's right to retain control that makes To Die Well unique among books of its type. Also included are accurate summaries of documents everyone should have, useful histories and information on end-of-life organizations. So pair this book with another favorite - poems, essays, (or perhaps my own Dying Unafraid) - and do yourself and your loved ones a favor by spreading it around.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars CAREFUL STEPS TOWARD DEATH August 12, 2010
Sidney Wanzer, MD & Joseph Glenmullen, MD
To Die Well:
The Right to Comfort, Calm, and Choice in the Last Days of Life

(Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press: [...] 2007) 209 pages
(ISBN: 978-0-7382-1083-4; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: not given in book)

Dr. Wanzer is physician who believes in the right-to-die.

He begins his book by telling the story of his own mother,
who was inappropriately given a pacemaker at age 92,
even tho she had a 'living will' that rejected just such life-prolonging treatments.
She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years before,
which prevented her from rejecting the pacemaker at the time.
Her doctor just proceeded to 'save her life'
because that was his standard operating procedure.
The pacemaker kept her 'alive' for another 5 years.

This all took place back in the last century, in the 1980s,
but even then there should have been better communication
between the treating physician and the family.
And there should have been some written consent
by the authorized proxy before any such medical procedure.

At the time Dr. Wanzer did not think he could do anything
to reverse this "medical travesty", as he now calls it.
If anything like this were to happen today,
it should be possible for the duly-authorized proxies
to reverse the medical decision
and decide that the pacemaker would not be maintained.
And that death would be permitted at the next legitimate opportunity.
A Do-No-Resuscitate order could now be placed in the patient's chart.

The first half of this book deals with terminal care,
patients' rights, pain-control, etc.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars To die or not to
This book is fine for the subject matter. These books should be readily available for people that need options when there are no treatments available. Read more
Published 1 hour ago by Joan of Stienbeck
5.0 out of 5 stars This almost out of print book is a MUST
Dr.WAnzer writes a compelling, sensible, informative, helpful book, with examples from his own life, about what to look out for at the end of life to make sure you retain some... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Faye Girsh
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable resource
Dr. Wanzer provides valuable guidance on both rights and options regarding dying well. We all hope to have a good death but rarely talk about what it will take to ensure that... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amy Butcher
4.0 out of 5 stars It's what I expected
Well I can not say I tried it out yet, but it is what I expected. A bit more about the legal stuff would have been better.
Published 9 months ago by Marci Beaudette
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well done
I have been following end of life issues for some time and found this book to cover all sides of the issue and to be very comprehensive. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Adrienne Dare
4.0 out of 5 stars a primer for start of search
a classic! This and Final Exit, are companions! Final Exit society, I have donated to for their 501c3 org! Having their help for a final exit is not free! Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ron B.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a pleasant subject but very helpful
I am researching eldercare in this country and trying to find information about how to best receive the care you want from health professionals. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars It bears thinking about
Dying well won't necessarily happen by chance. It might with luck, but it's good to plan. It's good to talk about it.
Published 12 months ago by Sue
5.0 out of 5 stars Book for our end days
Our culture doesn't like to deal with the subject of death but it happens to everyone. We should be aware of how to prepare in every way for this eventuality. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Jordan Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars Knowing and Choosing will give you Strength
Everyone will most likely face this decision. Life is a struggle best faced prepared. This is a very clear and compassionate presentation of the choices and stages that most will... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Rick Arscott
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