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Book and Media Reviews
October 4, 2006

End of Life

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;296(13):1659-1664. doi:10.1001/jama.296.13.1662

William Colby's aim, stated at the end of his book, is for each of us to let our family members know in advance what we would and would not want done in the way of aggressive, high-technology interventions at the end of life (p 218). Previous oral declarations are as helpful to those shouldered with the responsibility of making end-of-life decisions for incapacitated patients as anything set down in writing.

Given our continuing denial of death in the United States and the pervasiveness of the illusion of medical immortality (the notion that the inconvenient intrusion of death will disappear if only enough high-end medical technology is applied to this “problem”), Unplugged is a necessary book. What makes it opportune is the fact that the sad and controversial case of Terri Schiavo has focused public attention on how decisions at the end of life are, or are not, being made and how they have become politicized in our highly polarized society. Colby, the lawyer who represented the family of Nancy Beth Cruzan in the first right-to-die case heard by the US Supreme Court, is eminently qualified to seize this moment in our collective consciousness to make his plea.

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