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Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives on Euthanasia and Mortality [Paperback]

M. Scott Peck
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 24 1998
The author of The Road Less Traveled, the bestselling and most influential book of psychiatric and spiritual instruction in modern times, now offers a deeply moving meditation on what euthanasia reveals about the status of the soul in our age. Its trenchant and sensitive treatment of the subject will define our humanity for generations to come.

From the Hardcover edition.

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From Library Journal

The author of several best sellers, including The Road Less Traveled (which at last count has been on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 687 weeks), Peck here discusses a complex and timely matter?euthanasia. Peck wants to address the "spiritual" aspects of the decision, which he feels have been ignored in this too-secular world. He's taken on a huge task: to define physical and emotional suffering, to come up with guidelines for considering physician-assisted suicide, and to foster further dialog by society as a whole on these issues. This is not a book of answers; Peck instead encourages discussion about "learning through dying," what a soul consists of, and choosing hospice care when it's clear the end is near. Peck is a wonderful writer, engaging, intelligent, and full of stories from his long psychiatric practice; as usual, he takes on big issues with seriousness, sensitivity, and balance. Highly recommended.?Barbara O'Hara, Free Lib. of Philadelphia
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Peck, very productive of late, may never have written a timelier, more cogent, more fluently readable book than this one. He believes that no current ethical-legal issue is more important than euthanasia and that there is not enough discussion of and even contention over it. He presents and considers the medical, spiritual, and social issues of euthanasia. Medicine, though it has finally conceded that "pulling the plug" on the terminally ill is a moral accession to the naturalness of dying, has yet to grant the necessity of fully relieving physical pain--that is, even to the point of eventually lethal doses of painkiller--and has barely begun to acknowledge hellish emotional pain as a condition from which suicide may be a wholly natural release. Spiritually, Peck insists that suicide done out of the individualistic desire to control one's life and to deny one's God-given soul must be discouraged, for life is a learning experience that ought to be fully realized, even through suffering. Yet Peck cites circumstances in which assisted suicide seems morally justified (one great strength of the book is the cases from which Peck educes the complexities he discusses--all of them real, drawn from his and other physicians' practices). He concludes, however, that at present society isn't spiritually strong enough to legalize physician-assisted suicide, which is perhaps the greatest reason that euthanasia must become the subject of a great and completely open debate, one that he has masterfully and engagingly begun. Ray Olson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Another Masterpiece By Scott Peck Sept. 26 2003
There's a reason Dr. Peck is one of my favorite authors, and this book once more demonstrates why. Denial of the Soul is a brave and important book that carefully and objectively explores the entire issue of euthanasia from both a medical and spiritual standpoint. Frequently touching and always well reasoned, once again he has produced a masterpiece that should give the thoughtful reason plenty to digest as he or she struggles to decide for themselves how they feel about the idea of terminating a human life-especially their own. This is much more than simply a book about the pros and cons of "pulling the plug" on the terminally ill, but explores a whole range of questions regarding hospice care, suicide and mercy killing, doctor assisted euthanasia, pain management, and quality of life issues (his chapter on pain management alone should be required reading for every first year medical student and nurse trainee.) His spiritual perspective on the issue-which he covers in some depth in the second half of the book-is more subjective and problematic, but he does manage to successfully bring God into the debate, for which I consider him among the bravest of medical professionals. His no-nonsense approach and personal antidotes make this one of those books you'll be thinking about long after you've read the last words.
As is true of all of Peck's books, however, I found myself enthusiastically agreeing with 95% of everything he wrote and vehemently disagreeing with the remaining 5%. He approaches the spiritual aspect of the debate from a purely liberal Christian perspective (and the political elements of it from a similar perspective) and so makes some statements that I couldn't help but challenge.
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Denial of the Soul is one of those books of rare insight about the human condition. The author shares the distillation of experience, concern about death, the nature of euthanasia, and life itself. Peck's book is not a diatribe against euthanasia but a subtle examination of how human nature shapes our deaths and how our choices about death ultimately strip bear our grip on life. The book is also a straw in the wind of the cultural war that flares all too often in the U.S. Peck characterizes himself as a Christian but does not then procede to pick up the cudgels of fundamentalism to batter the secular barbarians who may disagree with him. Peck's Christianity is tempered with more than a little humility and a keen awareness that he might be wrong from time to time. Peck does use this volume to speak against the notion that the whole of a human is immeasurably greater than the sum of the biochemical parts. He passionately argues that just as quantum mechanics limits what we can measure and describe with certainty, the nature of the human soul masks depths and purposes that also remain hidden. The decision to prematurely end a life, to short-cut a soul strikes Peck as a risky endeavour. Denial of the Soul is more than a discourse on euthanasia and sadly may be ignored because it is neither a strident attack on secular valuses nor a staunch defense of conservative Christianity. The book is far more than that, it is about life and the choices all of us make.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best work Peck has done in years. Sept. 27 1998
By A Customer
Denial of the Soul is a must read for every person and it is one of those books you must read before you need the information. The first third of the book is devoted to taking a cut at the medical profession for not providing 'proper pain contol' of terminal patients. The last two thirds deals with the subtitle in an interesting way that will keep me thinking about it the rest of my life. He starts with a definition of the soul which is complex (typical of Peck) and requires considerable discussion to make it "real". He goes on to explore the subject but, for me, the most interesting part of the book is his "side trips" into death and dying and life! I found the wisdom great for a man that is trying his best to face his own death in the not too distant future. (Peck is about 63 or so) Included are some "gray rules" for deciding if the plug should or should not be pulled that are very useful. Every person that is alive will face the issues in this book for yourself or your loved ones. It is a must to help you decide many answers and there will be some you can not answer till you have to. Peck says that some of the greatest learning for you and for loved ones can take place in the process of dying. I know this to be true from what I experienced with my own father's death. Scotty has done a great service to mankind, again, with this book. Jerry Hampton
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5.0 out of 5 stars Searching for the soul April 9 2000
This book addresses the question of euthanasia in America. It presents the spiritual issues surrounding death and life - issues which the Peck feels are not fully considered when considering euthanasia.
He distinguishes between pain and suffering - how pain can and should be alleviated, and why it should not be the cause of seeking a quick death.
His book is important for those who will face death, either themselves or in others. It is a brave attempt to clear the conflict regarding euthanasia.
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