This is a comprehensive manual for anybody reaching the end of life, and for their caring friends, relatives, advocates, and caretakers. The author, an Episcopal priest, describes in detail the formidable challenges faced by those who wish to avoid months or years of painful treatment after they no longer have any hope of recovering any reasonable quality of life. Specific subjects include:
- the nature of physical death;
- legal documents to clarify one's wishes;
- the need for a strong advocate to have the patient's wishes honoed
- moral questions that must be considered;
- means of dying painlessly once the decision is made;
- and much more, including how to respond to reluctant doctors, and the value of humor in communicating with a dying patient.
Abraham emphasizes that despite is position as a priest, this is not a religious book. It is intended for people of all faiths or no faith. People develop their own views on end-of-life issues, and for those who have not yet given it much thought, he offers facts and insights that are useful in forming one's moral beliefs. The decision, of course, must always be made by the patient, usually well ahead of time while he or she is able to make a sound judgment. If the patient desires continued medical treatment despite suffering and no means of recovery, that person's wishes must be honored. However, he argues strongly that those who hope to avoid the terrible suffering that comes so often at the end of life should also have their wishes honored.
The book carries strong endorsements from a number of well-known authorities on death, dying, grief, and mourning, including Rabbi Earl A. Grollman, the author of numerous best-selling books on death and grieving, and Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society and author of Final Exit.