Like so many of us, award-winning writer Katy Butler always assumed her aging parents would experience healthy, active retirements before dying peacefully at home. Then her father suffered a stroke that left him incapable of easily finishing a sentence or showering without assistance. Her mother was thrust into full-time caregiving, and Katy became one of the 24 million Americans who help care for aging parents. In an effort to correct a minor and non - life threatening heart arrhythmia, doctors outfitted her father with a pacemaker. The device kept his heart beating but did nothing to prevent his slide into dementia, incontinence, near-muteness, and misery. After several years, he asked his wife for help, telling her, "I am living too long."
Mother and daughter faced a series of wrenching moral questions: When does death cease being a curse and become a blessing? Where is the line between saving life and prolonging a dying? When is the right time to say to a doctor, "Let my loved one go?"
When doctors refused to disable the pace-maker, sentencing her father to a protracted and agonizing death, Katy set out to understand why. Her quest had barely begun when her mother faced her own illness, rebelled against her doctors, refused open-heart surgery, and instead met death head-on. Knocking on Heaven's Door, a revolutionary blend of memoir and investigative reporting, is the fruit of the Butler family's journey.
With a reporter's skill, a poet's eye, and a daughter's love, Butler explores what happens when our terror of death collides with the technological imperatives of modern medicine. Her provocative thesis is that advanced medicine, in its single-minded pursuit of maximum longevity, often creates more suffering than it prevents. Butler lays bare the tangled web of technology, medicine, and commerce that modern dying has become and chronicles the rise of Slow Medicine - a growing movement that promotes care over cure.
Knocking on Heaven's Door is a visionary map through the labyrinth of a broken and morally adrift medical system. It will inspire the necessary and difficult conversations we all need to have with loved ones as it illuminates a path to a better way of death.
©2013 Katy Butler (P)2013 Simon and Schuster
There aren't enough stars for this incredibly timely book. THANKFULLY this journey, as it relates to my parents, is in my rear view mirror. But as it relates to me - we Americans have work to do. I'm going to shout this book's message from the rooftops. We need to re-think our "modern medicine's" approach to the last years/months/weeks/days of our lives, and this book lays out a difficult, but important intellectual game change in how we approach dying. A thousand stars to Katy Butler, for living through her parents deaths, and for so eloquently discussing how we can change OUR experiences moving forward.
Beautiful, tragic, and motivating.
The fine details of the characters, nature, the body, the brain and our healthcare system.
Her voice conveys real emotion: calm, frustration, sadness, guilt, desperation, love, respect, and peace. Also, she made the many medical terms and descriptions easy to understand and visualize. (I would have glossed over them if reading.)
Yes, after a seven hour drive I wanted to sit in the car just to hear more.
Linguist, translator, addicted to Audible.
We need more books like this one. And we need to discuss death and dying more openly. This book did just that, without the melodrama and the easy appealing to spirituality lots of other books about the same subject tend to show. I loved it.
Taking the product out of the author's hands more. Narration would have benefited from another person's interpretation. A stronger editor could have narrowed the story more and prevented Ms. Butler's frequent repeats and overuse of forced metaphors.
The story is very personal, yet universal. This is Ms. Butler's strength, however, much time is spent on working out her own personal issues with her family, with childhood issues repeated a number of times. This slows down the story, lessens the impact, and at times is tiresome.
This book presents both the very personal anguish of helping one's loved ones through the end of life and the economic drivers behind some life saving medical treatments and the conflicts inherently involved.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone brushed by the topics of aging, dying, illness and choosing medical interventions.
Say something about yourself!
The narrator droned on and on--much like a dirge.
Perhaps--although I would suggest he or she try reading the book--and avoid the audible format.
Not sure--John Lee?
This question does not pertain to this book.
The author's thesis has merit, but her atheism was a huge obstacle to my finding it applicable to my life. I would periodically nod to myself agreeing, "She has a point here." But then her super depressing voice and "story" with no twinge of joy or hope would overwhelm my ability to relate.
I too lost my father recently so have been thinking more about death and agree that our society could benefit from discussing its inevitability. I still miss my father and talk with my mother and siblings about him and the feelings of emptiness brought on by his death --but then I recall his deep faith and how much he looked forward to Heaven. When my father took his last breath, my younger sister rushed to open the windows and doors so that the angels could enter. And later when all 8 of us lovingly zipped up the bag containing his body, and walked alongside staff from the funeral home as they wheeled the gurney to the hearse, we knew he had already gone to Heaven. It was such a comfort and a beautiful memory. In conclusion, I felt sorry for the author quite often—she was without God, faith or community, sisters or any children of her own, left alone with all that grief.
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