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Not perfectly written. Not a deep study of religion or philosophy.
This is a from-the-heart-account of three sisters and a dying mother who wishes to end it all at home and with dignity. The sister have three diffent views on whether, when and under what circumstances this may or should occur.
How they deal with the mother, with each other and with death is a subject that should be of active interest and proactive consideration by every one who has a mother or a father. Or, who is approaching similar decisions for themselves.
My father rejected cancer treatment which would, in all probability, have lead to him living an additional six months at the least to two years at the most with constant surgeries and interventions. He chose to go home and starve himself in the presence of his children and with the support of the hospice workers. It took about two weeks. His decision was made public and over 150 collegues, friends and family came by the house for a last visit.
It was a wonderful death, given that all men must die, and we left no unfinished business between us or between my sister and me.
That's what this book is about. I've been in the writer's place, exactly, and her story rings very true to me.
Read this book. If you are older, give it to your children; if you are younger, give it to your parents.
In her book "Imperfect Endings" Zoe Carter writes beautifully about a tragic topic: How family members respond to a cry for help from a loved one who wants to die. This dreaded cry brings about a horrible, no-win dilemma. If they assist in their loved one's suicide or death, they will probably end up grieving forever; if they refuse, they are likely to suffer from both endless grief and guilt for not helping. To make matters worse, some studies show that over 50% of self-deliverance attempts are botched because the drugs used are not-so-lethal. So family members must complete the botched attempt which puts them in jeopardy with the law.
"Imperfect Endings" tells how Zoe and her sisters responded to that cry for help from their mother Margaret who had been suffering for years from Parkinson's and other ailments. Even though Margaret was enrolled in hospice, she was still suffering. So she decided it was time to end her life. The problem was that she wanted a good death. She wanted to die peacefully: at home, surrounded by family. Was it too much to ask?
Unfortunately, this type of death is not within easy reach in states where there is a prohibition on assisted dying. Even with the best connections, Margaret could not find a self-deliverance method that would both work and not implicate her daughters. She considered inhaling helium through a mask, but it required some assistance. Next, she was able to accumulate a stash of drugs: Seconal and morphine. But, as she noted, "Sometimes it doesn't work. You take the pills and you don't die. The exit guides are there to make sure that doesn't happen."
Zoe and her sisters had no intention of becoming exit guides. They were not prepared to finish off the job by placing a plastic bag over their mother's head. Finally, Margaret decided that the only safe exit plan was to stop eating and drinking. Obviously, it wasn't going to be a quick and painless death. As Margaret put it, "I thought the point of ending your life was to avoid suffering. Not to find brand-new ways to suffer."
Margaret did suffer as she slowly died from starvation and dehydration, but she was surrounded by family. At one point during the fast, the pain was such that she tried to die from a morphine overdose. Luckily for the family, the morphine did not kill her, but it did sedate her to the point of unconsciousness. Margaret was finally able to complete her fast. May she rest in peace. (Disclosure: My own mother recently died that way, and it was not pretty.)
I fully agree with Zoe's conclusion: "If assisted suicide was legal, and we hadn't been forced to spend so much time worrying about getting caught, we might have been able to better prepare ourselves. To figure out what it meant to be here at this profound moment of my mother's life. As for her ... well, there's no doubt it would have been easier. She might have even chosen to stay alive longer if her doctors had been able to discuss her plans with her." Thank you, Zoe, for addressing this difficult topic.
Robert Orfali, Author of "Death with Dignity: The Case for Legalizing Physician-Assisted Dying and Euthanasia"
This is the perfect book for anyone who has ever wondered what he/she would do if a family member suffering from a terminal illness decided on no more treatment or even on a treatment that might hasten the inevitable. The book involves a mother and 3 daughters and each has a different perspective on what the mother has decided to do. It's a book to make you think........whatever your opinion of assisted suicide.
Riveting and intimate, this deeply moving and personal story allows one to escape into another reality. Exquisite depictions engaging all of the senses bestows the reader with the experience of being Zoe, past and present. Pulled in from the first few words and grieving at the last because, alas, it was all over . . . will there be a sequel?! What happened with her mother's caregivers? Her mother's friends? The eldest sister? How is she and her family doing now? I WANT A MOVIE!!! Perhaps a Ron Howard or Penny Marshall movie with Rene Russo playing Zoe Fitzgerald Carter. Thank you so much, Zoe, for putting your neck out and risking personal repercussions on this controversial subject. It is about time for all to see the compassion and unconditional love required in allowing a loved one the dignity to choose their own ending; a dignity we already offer our beloved canine and feline companions.
In this book, about her mother's decision to end her own life, Zoe Carter tells a story that is warm, funny, and even suspenseful. It's a wonderful book, written with a light touch, about a "heavy" subject. It's a "must read" for anybody who is interested in the tensions between modern medicine's ability to keep us alive and our desire to die with dignity. Bravo!
In short, this is a wonderful expose on how to address an exit strategy for a parent from the viewpoint of a thoughtful and gracious daughter - akin to "Sophie's Choice " in reverse. Ms. Carter's dilemna is complex, and her memoire well potrays the nuances of the family dynamics involved in the process. As an individual with Buddhist leanings, the topic of how, when and why life is to end is of great personal interest and this memoire definitely provokes a deeper contemplation of these questions. Ms. Carter's work is highly recommended by this reader !!
The value of this book is in its story of how family involvement in a justifiable assisted suicide is so important. A vivid book which is hard to put down. BTW, the Hemlock Society mentioned in the book no longer exists, having been merged into another organization in 2003.
This lovely story, set against a background of glamour and privilege, touches the heart in many ways. Carter writes with precision and wit about this most difficult subject, how to respect a parents wish to die. Devotion shines from every page, along with confusion, frustration, and humor. The answer to this terrifying question can only be approached by tapping the accumulated knowledge of those who have faced it. Carter joins the conversation with clarity and hard-won perspective. It is a heartening tale that contributes to one of the most agonizing debates of our time.