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How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter, New Edition [Paperback]

Sherwin B. Nuland
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 15 1995 Vintage

New Edition: With a new chapter addressing contemporary issues in end-of-life care

A runaway bestseller and National Book Award winner, Sherwin Nuland's How We Die has become the definitive text on perhaps the single most universal human concern: death.  This new edition includes an all-embracing and incisive afterword that examines the current state of health care and our relationship with life as it approaches its terminus.  It also discusses how we can take control of our own final days and those of our loved ones.

Shewin Nuland's masterful How We Die is even more relevant than when it was first published.


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How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter, New Edition + The Art of Aging: A Doctor's Prescription for Well-Being + How We Live
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The 1994 NBA nonfiction winner, Yale physician Nuland's study of the clinical, biological and emotional details of dying was a 14-week PW bestseller.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Drawing upon his own broad experience and the characteristics of the six most common death-causing diseases, Nuland examines what death means to the doctor, patient, nurse, administrator, and family. Thought provoking and humane, his is not the usual syrup-and-generality approach to this well-worn topic. Fundamental to it are Nuland's experiences with the deaths of his aunt, his older brother, and a longtime patient. With each of these deaths, he made what he now sees as mistakes of denial, false hope, and refusal to abide by a patient's wishes. Disease, not death, is the real enemy, he reminds us, despite the facts that most deaths are unpleasant, painful, or agonized, and to argue otherwise is to plaster over the truth. The doctor, Nuland stresses, should instill in dying patients the hope not for a miraculous cure but for the dignity and high quality of the remainder of their lives as well as of what they have meant--and will continue to mean--to family, friends, and colleagues. Nuland also has strong feelings about suicide and "assisted death": the doctor should be prepared psychologically and practically to help the longtime patient slip off the scene in relative comfort. William Beatty --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be afraid to read this book Feb. 8 2000
Format:Paperback
I'm not sure what made me read "How We Die". It just appeared on my reader's radar a couple of years ago. First let me say that what I came away with was a profound sense of the awesomeness of human life and death, especially the awesomeness of physical death. The author explains in careful and graphic detail what happens to the body's systems under various scenarios that eventually result in the inevitable death of the body. Strangely, this information was more embracing and empowering than depressing and sad. Somehow, the knowledge of WHAT really happens when we die frees me to move on to HOW I feel about it and how I can deal with it. For me, the book stripped much of the power from various traditional, political, religous, legal, societal, and familial interpretations of this event, and allowed me to start to think it through for myself. Long after I finished the book, I found myself reflecting on the information presented by the author, and more importantly, digging deeply into my own psyche and soul to uncover what I really feel and believe. When my father died last year, I felt able to observe and participate in the process with less fear and dread, and more of a sense of power than if I had never read the book. While the events and circumstance of his illness and eventual death were extremely sad and difficult, I credit this book (and the mental and emotional effort I put into reading and reflecting on it) with allowing me to accept the fact that my father was going to die, and to deal with everything that had to be dealt with. Thank you, Dr. Nuland.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frank yet compassionate book about death & dying. March 22 2002
Format:Paperback
What actually happens during "clinical death"? Why do we age, and what happens to the body? This National Book Award winner Particularly recommended for anyone in a position to explain these difficult processes to others. This award-winning account describes in frank yet compassionate detail just what most of us are likely to face when the time comes, Sherwin B. Nuland's How We Die combines erudition and eloquence in a refreshingly unsentimental look at the processes of death. A distinguished surgeon and gifted writer, Nuland illuminates the mechanisms of cancer, heart attack, AIDS, and Alzheimer's disease with precision and compassionate awareness.
Why read such a book? Taking away the fear of the unknown can bring courage and peace in the face of a difficult time. This book presents unpleasant facts in simple language that anyone can understand.
Chapters cover different types of death, making clear the physiological changes and medical choices that go along with each one. It addresses both medical and emotional realities of common conditions such as cancer, heart disease, AIDS, Alzheimer's, severe trauma, and just plain wearing out. (Be prepared to cry, since reading this book may make you experience feelings associated with people you love.)
What makes this book such compelling reading is that Nuland brings to this subject all of the depth and breadth of his background AND his deep concern for the human condition. His long career at a high-powered academic medical center (Yale), his knowledge of the history of medicine, of literature and philosophy, and his own personal losses are all woven into his thesis.
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5.0 out of 5 stars No holds barred desription May 3 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very well written and frank discussion about death. You come away a little shaken about what you've earned but he doesn't sugar coat the bitter pill. There is a definite sense that he is talking from a position of great experience. Though there are moments of stark reality where it's hard not to get a little worried, there are also some beautiful stories he tells, with an underlying theme of hope.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still reading it April 10 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This delightful man is so very interesting in how he compiles words thoughts ideas brilliance intelligence together. The language is quite understandable, as I have just retired from a career in nursing. The most interesting, is how we come away with the concept that we must stop the death denying and death defying ways we have been so locked in to.
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5.0 out of 5 stars eminently important read April 11 2004
Format:Paperback
A moving and detailed compendium of major causes of death, their physical causes and manifestations, and the effects on a victim's life and family. Tragically sad, yet realistic and imminently important, this book is a must-read for anyone who wants the truth about their body, their life, and how the beginning and the middle can affect the end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great read Jan. 9 2004
Format:Paperback
This is a very well written and informative book that is especially relevant clinicians and aspiring health professionals. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary!! Dec 22 2003
Format:Paperback
The author tries to explain experiences related to death both from medical and phylosophical perspective. He explains the major deseases (main causes of death), such as Alzheimer' desease, stroke, aatherosclerosis, cancer and just aging, in very clear and understandable language. But he doesn't stop at explaining what is happening technically with the body, he also proceeds with the desease progress as seen by the patient and other people around him. The author draws not only from his vast experience as a doctor, but also from his personal experience, which makes this book even more powerful. The main point of the book is that author belives we need to know about death to be better prepared to the end. I don't know about this but I just can say that the book left me quite depressed. It's not neccessarily a bad thing but the book is definitely not for everybody. Besides knowing the subject, Sherwin Nuland is a very good writer and this results in very convincing and powerful book. The only point that the author makes that I cannot agree with is that there is no reason to try to change the order of things in the world in regards to aging. The author believes that all attempts to prolong life are meaningless since there is an order in the world where young species replace old and that's how it supposed to be. I find such approach too 'weak' and passive, degrading in a way the purpose of humanity on Earth. Having said this, it does not affect my opinion that this is extraodinary book.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint-hearted
This book should come with a warning label: "NOT TO BE READ BY THOSE RECENTLY BEREAVED." It is a very macabre book and will only worsen the grief.
Published on June 27 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book, but provokes anxiety
This is a very good book, however, the atmosphere of
helplessness that it creates in the wake of the impending
agony of death makes me feel part of that agony even... Read more
Published on May 7 2003 by S.A. NOVITSKY
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
Well in all truth , this is the first book ive ever read that has more then 100 pages.. And it was able to keep my attention rather well. Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2002 by "anrkist"
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book
This is an outstanding book. The author is able to explain the medicine in a very clear manner. He clearly has a gift for working with patients. Read more
Published on March 13 2002 by Jeffrey P. Utz, M.D.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Read
How We Die is a moving and unaffected book about one's dying. Dr. Nuland attempts to answer in uncommonly moving observations
what it looks like, what it feels like on life's... Read more
Published on Dec 1 2001 by D. PEARSON
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wise and Gentle Doctor On Death
I came across this book by accident, yet I read it in one sitting. It is a book I believe everyone should read. Dr. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2001 by Leigh A. Merryday
4.0 out of 5 stars very good material, but I have a problem with chapter 8
This book names and explains the most common ways in which one will die. My favorite quote from the book is "good health guarantee's nothing". Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2001 by Haseeb
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