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The book examines the laws and controversies of the right-to-die (RTD) movement in the U.S. and worldwide, which has staunch supporters and opponents. Journalist Katie Engelhart did a remarkable, compassionate, and unbiased, job interviewing people who chose this opinion and those who guided or helped them; she shares their pragmatic, empathetic, and rational approaches.

It's inevitable that we're going to die. Every one of us. Yet in our culture, talking about death and end-of-life options are taboo, discussions around these topics are stifled, often close-minded, and polarized. Some people are afraid of dying. Others are afraid of having a painful, horrible death, and still others are being forced to live a torturous life while conditions progressively worsen. Americans, who lag behind other countries in RTD options, have to live against their wishes, even when they've witnessed tormenting hospital or other deaths or are in protracted agony themselves.

The American Medical Association is against physician-assisted suicide because supposedly a doctor's pledge is to do no harm, however, medical lobbyists and boards allow and encourage rampant medical malpractice via scams, assaults, and cover-ups, which is why medical negligence is a lead cause of death in the U.S., and medical battery is common, so the AMA coming out against a compassionate right-to-die is hypocritical.

Forcing people to live in hellish situations is doing harm. About a fifth of elderly Americans undergo surgical procedures in hospitals in the last month of their lives. This financially feeds the medical industry. For those who believe in an individual's right to choose what happens to their body, opening up the conversation to include the death option is necessary.

A segment of the population says all life is sacred and needs to be preserved if possible - no matter what. But what about the people who are on death row? What about victims of war? We teach soldiers to kill, but we won’t allow someone to die peacefully when they are enduring unbearable agony and want to be out of that pain.

We are expected to end the lives of our beloved pets as an act of mercy when they are suffering intolerably. People talk about the Rainbow Bridge as though their dogs and cats are finally frolicking in freedom, meanwhile, in Ireland, the most common method elderly people use to die by their own hand is hanging. That’s a horrible death. By 2016, euthanasia accounted for four percent of total deaths in the Netherlands, one of the countries where assisted death is legal.

In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its first-ever ruling in a right-to-die case. In a 5–4 split, justices decided that any competent individual had the right to refuse any medical treatment, regardless of her prognosis or how effective a treatment might be. Healthcare proxies can refuse treatment on behalf of an incompetent patient, as long as they had left clear evidence of her wishes, however, physician assisted suicide is still mostly illegal. Meanwhile, costly high doses of morphine that end consumers lives in medical institutions is an accepted practice. America, more than progressive European nations, has prolonged institutionalized death in situations where suffering outweighs quality, people have lost their autonomy and dignity, and wish to die at home, as they choose.

Many doctors acknowledge that people are dying badly in a system that has increased methods to prolong life, even when quality of life is long gone. Some doctors have become proponents for the right-to-die and they write lethal prescriptions for people who are suffering. Engelhart interviews some of these doctors. Doctors, religious leaders and politicians debate issues of allowing physicians to help terminally ill patients kill themselves. Rights of the chronically ill or others who are suffering but not deemed to be in the last few months of life are not considered.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, some eugenicists also supported voluntary euthanasia. These awful people who were for forcible sterilization of the feeble-minded, social Darwinism, and a philosophy of race betterment unfortunately conflagrated very different issues.

Hastening one's death is legal, however, but the freedom to talk about it is stigmatized and regularly met with misjudgments, forced medical treatment, or toxic positivity instead of empathy and acceptance. Also, non-violent means to end life have been outlawed so people with rational reasons may resort to violent means and secrecy, which then traumatize and haunt survivors and the public.

In 1994, Oregon residents passed Measure 16, making the state the first place in the world to legalize, by vote, medical aid in dying (MAID) or physician-assisted death (PAD). Oregon-style death with dignity laws only apply only to people who are going to die soon. Many people who are mentally competent and are suffering unbearably with illness or pain, or are becoming demented without chance for recovery don't match the state law’s eligibility criteria for hastening their death.

Those who support the right-to-die say state laws are arbitrary and unfair. Some also say that death should not be left up to doctors, it's an individual's choice. Right-to-die opponents are afraid of a slippery-slope that will include the sick, mentally ill, and the old. Some disability rights activists express concern that aid-in-dying laws will target people with atypical bodies who want to live.

Some opponents object based on their religion. In various traditions, however, ending one's own life under certain conditions is considered brave or noble. Desmond Tutu expressed desire for an assisted death. Epicureans and Stoics felt that ending one’s life when it became unbearable was justified. In 1516 Thomas More wrote that in a utopia a person suffering from incurable and agonizing conditions, who had become a burden to himself and others, who hastened their exit would be taking a pious action. Under The Freedom of Religion Act, an individual ought to have the right to choose.

In the DSM - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - suicide, (unfortunately the most commonly used word to describe self-chosen end-of-life), is described as a symptom of mental illness. It's quite rational, however, to desire to be released from a living hell. Reading "Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill," by award winning journalist Robert Whitaker may help shine a light on how terribly misguided the DSM is across the board.

If you're interested in this topic, and are concerned about how you or your loved ones' end-of-life might play out, I highly recommend this book.

I also recommend watching this interview by Zak Nilsson, singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson's late son. Zak, (who died a painful, prolonged, labored death from cancer), was an outspoken proponent of the right-to-die with dignity. Zak chronicled his battle with cancer on Facebook where thousands of people followed along in solidarity and support.
Sasha_Lauren | 1 annan recension | Aug 15, 2023 |
Mostly just my strong feelings…

This is an issue near and dear to my heart from the time I was about 12 years old.

I get angry when people won’t be helped to die if that’s what they want, for any reason, not just for sure being within 6 months of death.

I have zero tolerance for those who try to prevent me from making my own choice to die, whether it’s from fear that abuse could happen or some religious or other belief that suffering is some sort of obligation. I dread being under the control of anyone like that! It’s a really common belief and ..

Reading this just increased my anger.

Reading this increased my terror. Magnified it.

The timeline included at the back of the book was telling. We seem to be in the infancy of allowing people to choose their time of death and to allow deaths without suffering for those who choose it.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. For over five decades now I’ve hoped this would not only be made easier but would become easy. Everyone deserves a good death if that’s what we want. We allow it for our dogs and our cats but some humans are keeping that right from other humans.

Give me barbiturates when I choose to take them, whether ti be because of cancer, dementia, ALS, extreme poverty, and it doesn’t really matter since I should get to choose when there is too much suffering, physical or mental. I am grateful to all those covered in this book who honor others’ wishes and especially those who try to help when help is needed. For those who disagree, then don’t ever take this action for yourself or others but don’t dictate your beliefs to those who don’t agree with you.

Well written and acknowledging all sides. I was interested in the various people that made appearances in this book.
Lisa2013 | 1 annan recension | Mar 30, 2021 |
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