Freedom to Die: People, Politics, and the Right-to-Die Movement

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9780312253899: Freedom to Die: People, Politics, and the Right-to-Die Movement
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Over the last decade, America has served as the battleground for a major political, social, cultural and religious war over one of the most fundamental questions we face: the right to die. Much like aborton in the 1970s, the right to die has emerged as one of the most urgent social issues for the coming years.
The strength of the right-to-die movement was underscored as early as 1991, when Derek Humphry published Final Exit, the movement's call to arms that inspired literally hundreds of thousands of Americans who wished to understand the concepts of assisted suicide and the right to die with dignity.  In 2011 Final Exit was in its 3rd edition.
Now Humphry has joined forces with attorney Mary Clement to write Freedom to Die, which places this civil rights story within the framework of American social history. More than a chronology of the movement, this book explores the inner motivations of an entire society. Reaching back to the years just after World War II, Freedom to Die explores the roots of the movements and answers the question: Why now, at the end of the twentieth century, has the right-to-die movement become part of the mainstream debate?

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Review:

Over 20 million people tuned in to watch Dr. Jack Kevorkian help a terminally ill man die on 60 Minutes during television-sweeps week in November 1998. The right to choose when to die is a deeply divisive issue around the world, and is especially so in the United States, thanks in part to Kevorkian and other activists. In Freedom to Die, Derek Humphry and Mary Clement describe the history of the right-to-die movement and explain all sides of the debate. Humphry has been an advocate of physician-assisted suicide ever since his wife died slowly and painfully of cancer in the mid-1970s. Humphry founded the Hemlock Society, one of the first advocacy organizations on this issue, and has written several other books on the subject.

The authors describe how technological advances, changes in the doctor-patient relationship, poor end-of-life care, and the civil-rights movement prompted the development of the right-to-die movement. Humphry and Clement are very critical of doctors' determination to keep a patient alive even after the patient's quality of life has become unbearably low:

To rely so heavily on technology and biological functions to define the states of life and death is to deny the very social, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life that give it meaning. In their zeal to fashion new and improved technologies, many doctors have promoted measures that are inappropriate and whose applications often have horrendous consequences.
After outlining the history of the movement and the arguments of those on all sides of the issue, Humphry and Clement explain the 1997 Oregon Death with Dignity Act and other recent legislation. Even those who do not agree with the authors that choosing when to die is "the ultimate civil right" will find this book a useful tool in understanding this turbulent debate. --Jill Marquis

From the Publisher:

"This bok challenges our thinking about a subject that is far more complex than simply granting someone his "ultimate civil liberty." -The New York Times Book Review

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9780312194154: Freedom to Die: People, Politics, and the Right-to-Die Movement

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ISBN 10:  0312194153 ISBN 13:  9780312194154
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 1998
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