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Book and Media Reviews
December 24 2008

Nothing to Be Frightened Of

JAMA. 2008;300(24):2922-2927. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.872

“Men, commonplace and ordinary, do not seem to me fit for the tremendous fact of eternal life,” the novelist W. Somerset Maugham wrote in 1902. “With their little passions, their little virtues and their little vices, they are well enough suited in the workaday world; but the conception of immortality is much too vast for beings cast on so small a scale.” As a young medical student, Maugham had watched patients die. “Never have I seen in their last moments anything to suggest that their spirit was everlasting,” he wrote. “They die as a dog dies.”