“Oh, ugh- what do you want to read that for? How morbid,” is often the reaction I get when I read (and reread) this title. Is it morbid? I would say that in fact Nuland’s sensitive and beautifully written examination of a universal experience is life-affirming and comforting. Nuland was a physician for many years, and taught medicine at Yale. He must have been an excellent professor, for he knows how to communicate difficult, complex information in elegant, digestible servings. He examines the physiological, psychological, spiritual and ethical issues surrounding death, using different scenarios such as heart attack, murder, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, cancer and old age. Researching and analyzing near-death experiences, he presents a picture of death as an experience which seems to be at least neutral, and frequently positive, for the person experiencing it. Some of the scenarios he presents are wrenching and unforgettable, such as the 10 year old child whose mother watches helplessly as a mentally ill homeless person stabs her daughter to death right in front of her. The thorough research and even tone are balanced by Nuland’s compassion and empathy. Remarkably, he avoids sentimentality, a welcome respite from many books on death and dying. Look for the edition which includes Coda: 2010, where Nuland delivers an incisive and critical analysis of our health care system as we approach our ends. “Death belongs to the dying and those who love them,” states Nuland in an eloquent epilogue- and so this book belongs to all of us.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: How We Die