The good death An exploration of dying in America

Ann Neumann, 1968-

Book - 2016

"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. If a good death exists, what does it look like? This question lies at the heart of Neumann's rigorously researched and intimately told journey along the ultimate borderland of American life: American death. From church basements to hospital wards to prison cells, Neumann charts the social, political, religious, and medical landscape to exp...lore how we die today. The Good Death weaves personal accounts with a historical exploration of the movements and developments that have changed the ways we experience death. With the diligence of a journalist and the compassion of a caregiver, Neumann provides a portrait of death in the United States that is humane, beautifully written, and essential to our greater understanding of the future of end-of-life care"--

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Subjects
Published
Boston : Beacon Press 2016
Language
English
Physical Description
240 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780807080627
0807080624
Main Author
Ann Neumann, 1968- (author)
Review by Choice Reviews

A regular contributor to a number of periodic publications, Neumann (visiting scholar, Center for Religion and Media, New York Univ.) brings a journalist's eye to her journey through the personalities and politics that shape discussions of end-of-life issues in the US.  She does not present the debates over these issues; she offers stories of people who are involved in these circumstances, on a personal level and/or political level.  She recounts her own father's death at home and how that experience shaped her work; she also talks about her work as a hospice volunteer, giving readers a taste of that growing part of end-of-life care.  She speaks to those in states that have legalized assisted suicide and examines the feelings and personalities that animate the respect life movement.  She writes of her friendship with the leader of a group calling itself Not Dead Yet, a disabilities rights organization that believes that laws that permit assisted suicide threaten the disabled.  In sum, this is a moving portrait of the ethical issues around end-of-life care, a portrait told through stories that give the subject a poignancy often lacking in such discussions.  Readers will be informed by this sensitive and at times moving book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. Copyright 2016 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The process and perception of death and dying in America are changing and are affected by many factors. Medical advancements can prolong life, visions of death are romanticized in literature and movies, and dying has become largely institutionalized, among other components. Journalist Neumann (Ctr. for Religion & Media, New York Univ.) seeks to reveal the changing nature of dying in America—the good, the bad, and the heartbreaking—through an examination of the political, cultural, and socioeconomic factors affecting this process. Topics include the history of hospice care; the political, legal, and economic effects of death on families and communities; medical overtreatment and autonomy; the staggering medical costs associated with prolonging life; the difficulty hope brings families and patients facing mortality, etc. The text is interspersed with Neumann's experiences volunteering in hospice care, including stories of the lives and deaths of those she came to know during her work and her interactions with members of the medical community, clergy, and families of the dying. VERDICT 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.—Jennifer Harris, Southern New Hampshire Univ. Lib., Manchester [Page 121]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

From church basements to hospital wards to prison cells, a journalist and hospice volunteer, following the death of her father, explores what it means to die well in the United States.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"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. If a good death exists, what does it look like? This question lies at the heart of Neumann's rigorously researched and intimately told journey along the ultimate borderland of American life: American death. From church basements to hospital wards to prison cells, Neumann charts the social, political, religious, and medical landscape to explore how we die today. The Good Death weaves personal accounts with a historical exploration of the movements and developments that have changed the ways we experience death. With the diligence of a journalist and the compassion of a caregiver, Neumann provides a portrait of death in the United States that is humane, beautifully written, and essential to our greater understanding of the future of end-of-life care"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"If a good death exists, what does it look like? This question lies at the heart of SITTING VIGIL, a rigorously researched and intimately told journey along the ultimate borderland of American life: American death. From church basements to hotel lobbies,hospital wards to prison cells, journalist and hospice volunteer Ann Neumann charts contemporary society and political, religious, and medical culture to tell us how we die today. In 2005, Neumann left her job in New York City to care for her father who had been suffering from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. She became a full-time caregiver--cooking, cleaning, and coordinating medications with hospice for three months in her hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When her father died, two days after Thanksgiving, she was undone by the experience, by the grief and visceral quality of death. It set Neumann on a course of research and investigation. Was her father's death a good death? Do others die this way? Is there a best way to die? SITTING VIGIL is the result of more than six years of hospice work, research, and examination into these questions and more. SITTING VIGIL deftly interweaves these personal accounts with a historical telling of the movements and developments that have changed the way we die, including the medical advancements that have altered the definition of death forever, patients' rights legislation, the prevalence of hospice and palliative care, Catholic hospitals that apply the Vatican's laws to a pluralistic society, the increasing successes ofthe Death with Dignity movement, health care reform, and the rise of excessive, ineffective medical treatment. SITTING VIGIL is the first book to survey the breadth and variation of death in America, and Neumann writes with engaging warmth, wit, and frank detail. "--

Review by Publisher Summary 4

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.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

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.