Thursday, January 01, 2004

How We Die - by Sherwin B. Nuland

sensitive, technical, moving

Read this book and then write out your living will. In How We Die, Sherwin Nuland takes the time to demythologize the process of dying. I almost cried about 4 different places in the book, as Nuland was describing the processes of real people along with real doctors trying to fight a battle they cannot ultimately win.

Nuland is very technical as he takes us step by step through cells, organs, and systems shutting down. At the same time, he writes with the passion, sensitivity, and insight you might expect from a poet or philosopher.

I have never read a more balanced perspective on death and dying. Nuland boldly commands us to go not gentle into that dark night. Yet, he also has the insight to tell us that sometimes enough is enough. And treatment sometimes only prolongs and increases agony.

The Psalms tell us "to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Reading this book may be a good way to do just that. In the end, what Nuland wants to say to us is that "[i]t is not in the last weeks or days that we compose the message that will be remembered, but in all the decades that preceded them."

I think this book is a must read for anyone who is a medical professional or who has to deal with medical professionals. It should be read by everyone who is going through the loss of a loved one, and by everyone who is terminally ill. It would make sense for pastors and social workers to read it.

Truly a great book.

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