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Books, Journals, New Media
January 20, 1999

Right to DieIn the Arms of Others: A Cultural History of the Right-to-Die in America

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available


by Peter G. Filene, 282 pp, with illus, $27.50, ISBN 1-56663-188-2, Chicago, III, Ivan R. Dee, 1998.

JAMA. 1999;281(3):289-290. doi:10.1001/jama.281.3.289-JBK0120-2-1

During my residency, I attended a conference on end-of-life issues and listened to a lawyer explain the legal principles of a highly publicized right-to-die case. My hand shot up when he opened up the discussion, and I asked what happened to the plaintiff after the case ended. The question surprised him. He said he didn't know but that the significance of the case was as a benchmark of legal ideas. In other words, my query lacked relevance.

Peter Filene not only asks such questions but wrote a book about the answers. Instead of limiting his work to the ethical and legal evolution of our thinking about the "right-to-die," Mr Filene has written a modern cultural history. He clearly articulates the arguments in the right-to-die debate, then focuses on the radical change in how Americans think and act about dying in all of its messy, emotional ambiguity.

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