Dying poses hard questions about autonomy.
Not every ailment can be fixed—or should be. Atul Gawande thinks we need to talk about this.
Before her recent death with the assistance of a prescription of barbiturates, Brittany Maynard, who was terminally ill, made public her hopes that this would be a watershed moment for the movement to make choices such as hers legal in all of the U.S. I can understand some of the reasoning of that campaign, even if I don’t agree with it.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison comes under the category of “Books to Be Read on an Annual Basis”—like Augustine’s Confessions, King Lear, or anything by Flannery O’Connor. In general, we read too many books and return to too few.
It’s tempting to blame partisan politics for last summer’s debacle over “death panels” and the very idea of doctors and patients holding conversations about the end of life. But the truth is: these conversations are difficult. Although some people welcome them, others approach the subject of death cautiously. Many of us would rather not explore what awaits us in the final years or weeks of life. Perhaps this reluctance explains why only one in five Americans has completed an advance directive for medical care.