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Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death

Katy Butler
New York, NY : Scribner, 2013.
First Scribner hardcover edition
9781451641974 (hardback), 1451641974 (hardback), 9781451641998 (ebook)
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"An exquisitely written, expertly reported memoir and expose; of modern medicine that leads the way to more humane, less invasive end-of-life care based on the author's acclaimed New York Times Magazine piece. This is the story of one daughter's struggle to allow her parents the peaceful, natural deaths they wanted and to investigate the larger forces in medicine that stood in the way. When doctors refused to disable the pacemaker that caused her eighty-four-year-old father's heart to outlive his brain, Katy Butler, an award-winning science writer, embarked on a quest to understand why modern medicine was depriving him of a humane, timely death. After his lingering death, Katy's mother, nearly broken by years of nonstop caregiving, defied her doctors, refused open-heart surgery, and insisted on facing death the old-fashioned way: bravely, lucidly, and head on. Against this backdrop of familial love, wrenching moral choices, and redemption, Knocking on Heaven's Door celebrates the inventors of the 1950s who cobbled together lifesaving machines like the pacemaker and it exposes the tangled marriage of technology, medicine, and commerce that gave us a modern way of death: more painful, expensive, and prolonged than ever before. Caring for declining parents is a reality facing millions who may someday tell a doctor: "Let my parent go." A riveting exploration of the forgotten art of dying, Knocking on Heaven's Door empowers readers to create new rites of passage to the "Good Deaths" our ancestors so prized. Like Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death and How We Die by Sherwin Nuland, it is sure to cause controversy and open minds"--
"A blend of memoir and investigation of the choices we face when our terror of death collides with the technological imperatives of modern medicine"--
  • Pt. 1: The stroke. Along came a blackbird ; A year of grace ; Rites of passage
  • Pt. 2: Fast medicine. The tyranny of hope ; Inventing lifesaving and transforming death ; My father's open heart
  • Pt. 3: Ordeal. Not getting better ; Dharma sisters ; Broke-down palace ; White water
  • Pt. 4: Rebellion. The sorcerer's apprentice ; The business of lifesaving ; Deactivation
  • Pt. 5: Acceptance. The art of dying ; Afterward
  • Pt. 6: Grace. Valerie makes up her mind ; Old plum tree bent and gnarled
  • Pt. 7: Into the light. A better way of death ; A map through the labyrinth ; Notes for a new art of dying.
322 pages ; 23 cm
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