Bill Tammeus reviewed The Good Death at the National Catholic Reporter this month. You can read the entire review here. Tammeus writes:

In the end, Neumann decides, “there is no good death. … But there is a good enough death.”

Beyond that, she writes, “there is really one kind of bad death, characterized by the same bad facts: pain, denial, prolongation, loneliness.”

And that is what people of faith should be working hard to help people avoid.

Thank you, Choice, a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, for this great review of The Good Death!

 

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.

–A. W. Klink, Duke University

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.

Thanks The New Physician (and Abhinav Seetharaman) for this fantastic review of The Good Death in your spring issue! Here’s a clip:

“In all, The Good Death not only depicts how Neumann provides care for her close ones, but also serves as an example on how we an treat our loved ones during the twilight of their lives to ensure their happiness and a peaceful closure. Upon conclusion of this book, students and physicians will be able to reflect on how they can better maneuver around the prongs of death, and alleviate the mental pain and challenges it brings upon them.”

Looking for more on The Good Death? Here are some links and updates from the last few amazing months.

6.1.2016 – A conversation with Alison Biggar for Aging Today, a publication of the American Society on Aging.

5.28.2016 – Best tweet ever!

Alizah Salario @Alirosa 24h24 hours ago
My honeymoon reading list is set: @emmastraub “Modern Lovers” @otherspoon’s “The Good Death” & @paula_span’s Kindle single on @JohnJpshanley

5.24.2016 – I gave a talk for the Westchester End of Life Coalition at Concordia College in Bronxville. The audience of about 50 people was primarily nursing students and teachers, fulling engaged and whip smart.

5.3.2016 – I wrote an op-ed for The Guardian on Prince’s death and opioid use.

5.1.2016 – Conscience Magazine, a publication of Catholics for Choice, noted The Good Death in their May issue.

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5.2.2016 – My monthly column, “The Patient Body,” for The Revealer, a publication of The Center for Religion and Media, was on calls for religious sensitivity training for doctors.

4.27.2016 – I was in Boston to give a talk on The Good Death at Novartis pharmaceutical company (like being in the lion’s den!) and then another that evening at Harvard Book Store, with incredible Katherine Stewart as co-respondent.

4.23.2016 – Marian Ronan, a research professor of Catholic Studies at New York Theological Seminary, reviewed The Good Death for Marginalia at the Los Angeles Review of Books…and confirmed once and for all that, no, I’m not anti-Catholic.

4.1.2016 – Charming Midwest Book Review covered The Good Death for their April issue.

4.22.2016 – While in Los Angeles, I reported out this story about burial of mass murderers for the Washington Post which appeared on the cover of the Outlook section.

4.15.2016 – I wrote an op ed for The Guardian on Canada’s move to legalize aid in dying.

4.10.2016 – Audible made The Good Death an audio book!

4.14.2016 – My interview with journalist Doug Henwood on The Good Death for Left Business Observer.

4.7.2016 – My essay for the Well section of The New York Times on the plight of widowers.

4.6.2016 – Buzzfeed’s Jina Moore schooled Gay Talese by naming 68 women writers that he should read–including me!

4.4.2016 – Ann Mandelstamm reviewed The Good Death for The Humanist. She wrote:

“The subject of this extraordinary book is heavy, but Neumann sprinkles it with delightful and touching stories of real people facing death (names changed, of course). She understands that this final stage of life can be acceptable, even empowering, if a person is lucky enough to experience “kindness, attention, and friendship of the human heart.” What renders dying terrible is unbearable pain, confusion, and a sense of being abandoned. She advocates strongly for everyone to have the right to say how much suffering he or she is willing to endure.”

4.1.2016 – My super fun piece on cults and capitalism, “Taking Liberties,” appeared in Issue 30 of The Baffler. You can read it here.

3.10.2016 – C-SPAN’s Book TV recorded an event that included other Killing the Buddha contributors (Scott Korb, Peter Manseau, Gordon Haber) and took place as Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn on March 10. You can watch the video here.

3.30.2016 – Kathleen Stephenson of KBOO’s Radiozone had me on the show to discuss The Good Death.

3.28.2016 – I was on Airtalk with Larry Mantle on KPCC, talking about The Good Death. You can listen here.

3.28.2016 – My talk with Point of Inquiry’s fabulous Lindsay Beyerstein is here.

3.24.2016 – Powell’s Books and Death with Dignity’s Peg Sandeen hosted an energetic and packed reading of The Good Death.

 

I had a wonderful conversation with Ellie Faustino about The Good Death. You can read the whole piece here. Here’s a clip:

“There are many who argue that being a financial, emotional or physical burden to our families and friends is an illegitimate fear. They argue that our families benefit from giving us such care, that we are better people by accepting and being a “burden.” Many of those in the disability community throw their hands up and say, wait a minute, “What about me? I have no choice but to rely on others and that’s what a compassionate society must do, care for those who need it.”

They’re absolutely right. And yet, we often use the rewards of caretaking as a blind to mask the emotional and other challenges that caretaking demands. Much as we extoll the glories of parenting to cover the trials of, say, a single working mother of two children. So one’s burden can be a very legitimate reason to fear incapacitation for some but not for others.”

I love this review because Copeland gets the current moment in death culture. She astutely writes:

“Our increasing willingness to talk about death in recent years could be considered progress—but it’s also something of a posture, which makes it easy to forget that we’re often broaching the subject of mortality in the most superficial of ways.

Specifically, there’s one kind of death talk that’s still much less accessible: end-of-life care. This topic is complicated and emotionally grueling and won’t succumb to metaphor. It’s also where the most compelling philosophical and moral questions about mortality reside.”

Read the entire review here.

If you follow my writing at all (or my posts at Facebook or Twitter) you already know that I’m a big fan of the PalliMed blog, where I spent hours reading the archives and current posts when starting to work on The Good Death. Which makes this review, by Anna Dauer, so exciting. Here’s a clip, below. You can read the whole thing here.

While not prescriptive about how to provide care, at times even noting hospice philosophy as patronizing, Neumann provides a descriptive, moving base of knowledge for beginning to acknowledge the work to be done to improve the quality of dying in America. Her chapters’ titles pay tribute to a meaningful situation or story, but belie the impactful prose that illustrates the experiences she recounts:

  • Terminal Restlessness
  • Mortality Parade
  • Priceless Days
  • Double Effect
  • Hunger and Thirst
  • A Small but Significant Minority
  • The Most Vulnerable
  • Dying Inside
  • A Good Death

Spoiler Alert: Neumann does not define a good death. Her work won’t let us off so easily as that. But her writing will enlighten, inspire, and potentially enrage readers who are interested in the topic so often swept aside in our culture, despite its gravity and pervasiveness.

A must-read for physicians and those passionate about care for the dying in this country, The Good Death provides additional context outside the specific realm of health care, or rather reminds us how we might impact the daily living and dying for all Americans, no matter socioeconomic circumstance or credo.

I spoke with Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service about The Good Death. You can read the entire piece here. Here’s a clip:

“It was an area of research that fascinated me because it did question the hands-down understanding we have that hope is always good,” Neumann said. “Hope can be sustaining. It can get us out of bed. But it can also result in the very painful treatment of patients and lead to denial.”