Beacon Press: The Good Death
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The Good Death

An Exploration of Dying in America

Author: Ann Neumann

Following the death of her father, journalist and hospice volunteer Ann Neumann sets out to examine what it means to die well in the United States.

When Ann Neumann’s father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she left her job and moved back to her hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She became his full-time caregiver—cooking, cleaning, and administering medications. When her father died, she was undone by the experience, by grief and the visceral quality of dying. Neumann struggled to put her life back in order and found herself haunted by a question: Was her father’s death a good death?

The way we talk about dying and the way we actually die are two very different things, she discovered, and many of us are shielded from what death actually looks like. To gain a better understanding, Neumann became a hospice volunteer and set out to discover what a good death is today. She attended conferences, academic lectures, and grief sessions in church basements. She went to Montana to talk with the attorney who successfully argued for the legalization of aid in dying, and to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to listen to “pro-life” groups who believe the removal of feeding tubes from some patients is tantamount to murder. Above all, she listened to the stories of those who were close to death.

What Neumann found is that death in contemporary America is much more complicated than we think. Medical technologies and increased life expectancies have changed the very definition of medical death. And although death is our common fate, it is also a divisive issue that we all experience differently. What constitutes a good death is unique to each of us, depending on our age, race, economic status, culture, and beliefs. What’s more, differing concepts of choice, autonomy, and consent make death a contested landscape, governed by social, medical, legal, and religious systems.

In these pages, Neumann brings us intimate portraits of the nurses, patients, bishops, bioethicists, and activists who are shaping the way we die. The Good Death presents a fearless examination of how we approach death, and how those of us close to dying loved ones live in death’s wake.
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“Neumann...takes an unflinching look at the reality of dying and end-of-life decisions...A valuable discussion of the complex issues involved in end-of-life care.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Readers seeking a refreshing examination of an ever-changing singular human experience will appreciate this concise and accessible volume that combines curiosity, modernity, and compassion.”
Library Journal

“Has there ever been a subject as chained to euphemism as what we now politely call end-of-life issues? Ann Neumann takes death head-on. With unflinching honesty and searing prose, The Good Death confronts the entwined realities of dying and surviving in all their complexity and pathos. It is that rare book that is at once a tremendously moving reflection and a clear-eyed approach to moments we all must face.”
—Peter Manseau, author of One Nation Under Gods

The Good Death is a work of fierce empathy, at times profoundly compassionate and at times driven by a sharp sense of the absurdities and injustices of the American way of dying. Neumann is part investigative journalist, part memoirist, an elegant and clear-eyed writer drawing from all corners of argument and experience to summon us to a better, more honest way of thinking about how we care for the dying and how we, too, will confront death in our time.”
—Jeff Sharlet, author of Sweet Heaven When I Die

“A powerful, elegant look at how we face death: both the ways we try to stave it off and the process of accepting its inevitability. Neumann leads us through the complicated legal, religious, and ethical labyrinths that surround dying in America, revealing the ways by which we measure the value of life.”
—Colin Dickey, author of Afterlives of the Saints


The Good Death

ISBN: 978-080708062-7
Publication Date: 2/16/2016
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $26.95
Format: Cloth
Availability: In stock.
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