How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter Nuland, S.B 1995

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

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