In the 1970s, most Americans died swiftly and brutally: of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, or in accidents. But in the past three decades, medical advances have extended our lives and changed the way we die. In Last Rights, Stephen Kiernan reveals the disconnect between how patients want to live the end of life—pain free, functioning mentally and physically, surrounded by family and friends—and how the medical system continues to treat the dying—with extreme interventions, at immense cost, and with little regard to pain, human comforts, or even the stated wishes of patients and families.
Backed with surveys, interviews, and intimate portraits of people from all walks of life, from the dying and their families to the doctors and nurses who care for them, this book will be for our time what Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's books were for a previous generation.
—Kay Degenhardt, KDI
“When I was first diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma over three years ago, it had the face of my mortality on it...I was blessed to come across a copy of Cathy’s manuscript of her life’s work in hospice... [which] made me laugh while I cried, but more importantly, Cathy’s compassion and her patients’ courage gave me hope and inspiration when I needed it most. I recommend that anyone...read this!”
—Joan Rose Ellsworth
Sometimes loss may transform the bereaved in ways that lead to growth and maturity; other times a loss leads to unremitting anger or melancholia. There may be a variety of spiritual expressions that the bereaved experience in their time of loss, but there appears to be some common elements in all of them. Overtime, survivors' feelings are transformed into growing exploration of the spiritual, a profound sense of rebirth, newfound feelings of self-mastery or confidence, and a deeply held conviction that "life goes on."
The contributions to this volume are based on a conference held in New York on the first anniversary of September 11, 2001. Contributors include Peter Metcalf, Robert Jay Lifton, Ilana Harlow, Robert A. Neimeyer, Samuel Heilman, and Neil Gillman. This sensitive and heartfelt volume relates specifically to issues of death, bereavement, and mourning in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, but the applications to other individual and catastrophic events is obvious. The contributions do not simply explore how people deal with bereavement or are psychologically affected by extreme grief: they address how people can try to find meaning in tragedy and loss, and strive to help restore order in the wake of chaos. The multidisciplinary perspectives include those of anthropology, psychology, theology, social work, and art.
Samuel Heilman is the Distinguished Professor of Sociology and holder of the Harold Proshansky Chair in Jewish Studies and Sociology at the City University of New York, and has also taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, and the Universities of New South Wales and Melbourne. He is the author of several books, including Synagogue Life and The People of the Book, both published in paperback by Transaction.