Even as Marilyn Webb put the finishing touches on The Good Death
, assisted suicide had come before the Supreme Court for legalization. In fact, as long ago as 1990, events had converged that led to cataclysmic changes in how Americans die. One such event was Dr. Jack Kevorkian's first assisted suicide. Since then the nation has struggled with myriad legal, physical, and ethical sides to the issue of assisted suicide.
Recent technological and medical breakthroughs have--in a relatively short amount of time--extended the average age of death from 46 to 80 years of age. The lingering, debilitating diseases of old age have become the norm; technology and medicine continue to dazzle, prolonging life without considering the issue of its quality. That search for quality propelled Marilyn Webb, editor in chief of Psychology Today, to travel the country for six years, collecting stories and information that reflect every angle of the subject. She examined the range of care and values in places ranging from tiny hospices to major metropolitan medical centers. She interviewed 300 physicians, nurses, and health care workers, even such luminaries as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and Kervorkian himself. She let conflicting views air: theologians versus Christian clerics; those in the Hemlock Society against pro-life conservatives. She sought out compelling, personal stories--the good, the bad, and the ugly--and analyzed the pressing issues that had begun to reshape our thoughts about death, including the legacy of Karen Ann Quinlan.
The Good Death can be read straight through or mined for the lessons taught by various aspects of the issue. Whatever your approach, you'll want to spend time with The Good Death, whether relishing or reeling from the stories or just pondering the values that shape the culture of death.
From Library Journal
On the brink of the 21st century, the American way of death remains shrouded in secrecy. In a highly readable style, Webb, a former editor of Psychology Today, integrates case studies with analytical chapters on the legal, historical, and social aspects of dying. The latest Supreme Court decisions on physician-assisted suicide and the right-to-die movement are covered in this painstakingly researched survey, as are the field's prominent personalities, from Kubler-Ross to Kevorkian. Thorny issues surrounding death and managed care are also considered. Webb's message is clear: The modern way of dying involves excessive emphasis on exotic technology and too little reliance on palliative care. The book is richly textured with personal, international, and cross-cultural suggestions for remedying the imbalance. Important questions are raised in this book, which originated as an article in New York magazine, though the result is sometimes uncomfortable to read, and the author's reforms won't suit every perspective. This substantial overview is recommended for all public libraries.?Antoinette Brinkman, Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.