A meticulous and frank collection of end-of-life stories, conversations, and ideas.



A survey of the history and current state of affairs of the right-to-die movement.

When the laws fall short or are subject to powerful economically or ideologically vested interests, people have always found a way to end the suffering of their lives. Working from the concept of a peaceful death being a basic human right, physician-assisted, rational suicide has usually been available, covertly if necessary. In this searching, compassionate narrative, journalist Engelhart explores “the push to wrest bodily control, at the end of natural life, from the behemoth powers of Big Medicine and the state,” an effort that “has been defined by individual stories”—in this case, doctors and individuals and their immediate, personal encounters with the administration of life-ending drugs and the paths that led them to that point. As the author recounts, the reasons for this increasingly public debate involve concepts of autonomy and the even more practical desire to avoid suffering and indignity. For many of the author’s interviewees, “planning death was often about avoiding indignity, something they imagined would be humiliating, degrading, futile, constraining, selfish, ugly, physically immodest, financially ruinous, burdensome, unreasonable, or untrue.” The author also examines instances in which patients were “treated and treated and overtreated,” which often prolonged agony and drained resources, whether individual or societal, and she digs into the even more complicated issues involved with patients suffering from dementia or other forms of mental illness. Evenhandedly and without undue criticism, Engelhart brings forth the counterarguments—e.g., the slippery path to eugenics and social Darwinism or that “maybe rational suicide was just a symptom of social and financial neglect, dressed up as a moral choice”—but she offers enough convincing evidence about the efficacy and ethical standing of the right-to-die movement that many readers will be persuaded of its value to society.

A meticulous and frank collection of end-of-life stories, conversations, and ideas.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-20146-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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