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A Good Death: An Argument for Voluntary Euthanasia 1st Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0522855036
ISBN-10: 0522855032
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Rodney Syme has been in medical practice for forty-five years, primarily as a urological surgeon. He was Chair of the Victorian Section of the Urological Society of Australasia in 1990-92, and chair of the Urology Study Group of the Cancer Council of Victoria in 1992-94. He has had extensive experience with cancer patients and with people with severe spinal injuries. He has been an advocate for physician-assisted dying for nearly twenty years, and the President of the Dying With Dignity Victoria for ten years.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Melbourne University Publishing; 1 edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0522855032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0522855036
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,471,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This important book was written by a physician practitioner who was intimately involved with dying patients: it is not another ivory tower discussion of physician-assisted dying. Over the course of thirty years, Dr. Rodney Symes helped numerous terminally-ill patients die with dignity. The book covers, in detail, fifteen representative cases, "those for whom records and memory allow an accurate, and reasonably detailed, account."

"The Good Death" provides a rare view of the profound emotions and difficulties that doctors experience when they receive that cry from help. It's also about the clarity and certainty of the dying patients who ask for help. "I wrote the book to reveal the context in which these experiences take place to illuminate the black hole of misunderstanding and ignorance." The book is a journey of discovery for Rodney as he grapples with the moral and practical issues that surround assisted dying and palliative care. His conclusion: "Physician-assisted dying, by whatever method, is palliative treatment--let people choose what's best for them."

The journey began in 1974 when Rodney received a cry for help from Betty who was experiencing acute respiratory distress: "She stimulated my conscience, through emotions of guilt and shame, anger and frustration, to a belief that, as a doctor, I had a duty to respect autonomy and to relieve suffering, if requested." Even though Rodney was a trained physician, he had to learn about dying with dignity the hard way: through trial and error. Over the years, he learned how to evaluate the patients' requests and alleviate their anxiety. He learned how not to abandon his patients in their time of greatest need. He learned through experimentation about lethal drugs and their dosages.
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Format: Paperback
Despite the illegality of voluntary euthenasia (VE), as Dr Syme concludes in his moving book on `physician-assisted dying', there is a widespread medical practice - covert, technically criminal and often unsatisfactory - of compassionate medical assistance to die for people with unmanageable, incurable pain and the severe emotional and psychological suffering that can also result from it.

Syme cites surveys of health professionals in Australia which have found that around a third of Australian doctors engage in the practice, which is part of a "benevolent conspiracy of medicine, law and government" to not bring criminal charges before a jury, where they would surely lose.

VE is strongly supported by the broad community where 70% or more support is regularly recorded, including amongst lay Catholics despite their Church's "moral crusade" for the `right to life' from `womb to tomb'. As Syme argues, however, a "right to live does not include an obligation to do so, under every circumstance", where to prolong a life is to prolong suffering.

The problem, says Syme, is that the most dignified and efficient methods (such as oral, quick-acting barbiturates) are illegal (because they can be seen to cross the line between intent to relieve suffering and intent to cause death) whilst the least dignified, most protracted and most unsatisfactory methods operate with relative immunity from criminal prosecution because they blur the difference in intent.

The result is a choice between dying badly (the de facto practice) and dying well (which legalised VE would allow). In addition, whilst VE remains illegal, it may be occurring without due care and skill, with bungled attempts making things worse for the patient.
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful account of reducing suffering at the end of life, from the view of a medical doctor with decades of clinical experience in taking care of patients. The style of the book is an appealing combination of a personal memoir and an intellectually stimulating and insightful description of the nuances of end-of-life choices, some of which are on the edge of being legal in several countries. Highly recommended.
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This book is a clear and,readable exposition of the issues pertaining to end of life issue of intolerable suffering and describes on practitioners journey in dealing with patients who wish medical assistance in dying. It describes several patient examples and sets the Australian situation in the context of the, Oregon and Netherlands approach.
It espouses the view that assisted dying should be part of a palliative care approach with appropriate safeguards and protocols under the law. Only in the rare circumstances when the patient is not physically capable of giving themselves an oral lethal dose, should parenteral therapy be considered. In Australia that would normally be with terminal sedation although the law covering this process is unclear and leaves practitioners vulnerable to complaint and prosecution. Dr Syme point out that great relief is obtained for patients in just knowing that they have control over their right to die. 30% will never use it. Just knowing that they have that option gives them the strength to continue.
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I ordered this book as I had previously read it from a library just after release.
Dr. Syme has been exceptionally honest in writing of his journey to relieve patients' suffering, from recalling his early efforts, to finally feeling able to assist those suffering from physical, psychological and existential problems in comfort and safety.
This is a subject which I feel requires much thought and discussion at every level involving the layman, medical, psychiatric and legal authorities to come to an acceptable and binding conclusion.
Some of my readings on this subject include 'Dancing with Mister D', (Bert Keizer) and works authored by Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer..
I have been involved in similar situations with the death of my mother and husband for whom I had a Medical Power of Attorney.
I am not a member of Dying with Dignity Victoria, although I am considering joining.
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