About Death with Dignity
In Death with Dignity, Orfali makes a compelling case for legalized physician-assisted dying. Using the latest data from Oregon and the Netherlands, he puts a fresh new slant on perennial debate topics such as “slippery slopes,” “the integrity of medicine,” and “sanctity of life.” His engaging writing style brings clarity to these issues. The content is thought-provoking; the arguments are well-researched, air-tight, and original.
This extraordinary book provides an in-depth look at how we die in America today. It examines the shortcomings of our end-of-life system. You’ll learn about terminal torture in hospital ICUs and about the alternatives: hospice and palliative care. With laser-sharp focus, Orfali scrutinizes the good, the bad, and the ugly. He provides an insightful critique of the practice of palliative sedation. The book makes a strong case that assisted dying complements hospice. By providing both, Oregon now has the best palliative-care system in America. Reading this book, above all, may help you or someone you care about navigate this strange landscape we call “end of life.” It can be your gentle and informed guide to “a good death” in the age of hospice and high-tech medical intervention.
Read chapter excerpts at the authors website
Purchase Death with Dignity in book or kindle format at Amazon
Visit the tour page at Pump Up Your Book!
Welcome to Paperback Writer.
Thank you for having me here.
Q: Would you explain what the title of your book means?
“Death with Dignity” is the name of the movement for legalizing physician-assisted dying. For example, the Oregon law is called the “Death with Dignity Act.” Notice that I use the word euthanasia in the subtitle. In Greek it means “an easy and gentle death.” My book is about the search for an easy and gentle death in the age of slow dying and high-tech medicine. It’s really about how we die in America today. You get the good, the bad, and the ugly. I write about how to navigate the modern end-of-life system to avoid “dysthanasia,” which in Greek means “the bad death.” Today, 80% of us experience dysthanasia.
Q: Would you share with us how you came up with the idea for your book?
I thought a lot about death and dying while writing Grieving a Soulmate. In essence, grieving is a long meditation about the dying process and the meaning of death. I wrote a superb chapter about Jeri’s death, but deep inside I knew that there was much more to the story. I was a very good researcher and system’s analyst in my previous life. I made my living by analyzing complex systems. I can tell you that our end-of-life system is extremely complex and hard to decipher; it is riddled with code. I was finally able to decipher the code and make the whole thing understandable in simple terms. The result is the book Death with Dignity. We’re all going to die some day, and so this book is for everyone. It makes you a more informed consumer and it can also help you navigate a loved one through their dying process. It’s the book I wish I had read before Jeri died. Of course, the book also makes a strong case for aid in dying: it’s what Jeri really wanted for herself but couldn’t have.
Q: Was it a light bulb moment or something that you thought about for a very long time?
The light bulb was Jeri telling me, “I waited too long.” Jeri was extremely tough: she was a nine-year chemo warrior and a competitive surfer. “I waited too long” meant she was really suffering. If she had control over her death, this is the time she would have chosen to die. Unfortunately, the timing of death is not controlled by the terminally-ill patient; it is controlled by the physician.
Q: What kind of research went into the book?
In the past, the computer books I coauthored were pretty airtight. I tried to do the same thing here. As much as possible, my arguments are based on empirical data, solid facts, and primary sources. I’ve done my homework. I also tried to make the book highly-accessible, and so the research just blends in. It’s an easy read.
Q: While you were doing your research, if you interviewed resources, what was their reaction to the kind of book you were writing?
Almost everyone has a “bad death” story. Typically, they never talk about it. It’s buried or whitewashed. They try to remember the good things. However, when I tell people about the title of my book, they confide in me: they tell me their deepest secrets and share the very intimate details of the death they experienced. It’s never pretty. Some start to sob. If you look at the polls, the public is consistently in favor of assisted dying. The numbers never drop. Why? Because deep inside they know that death is not pretty. They know that more choices are needed. The boomers are currently witnessing the deaths of their parents and they don’t like what they see. I believe that when they start entering the end-of-life queue they will make assisted dying a top priority.
Q: What was your main purpose for taking on this topic that everyone is afraid to talk about, specifically, dying, in today’s youth oriented society?
It’s a very taboo topic. If you think about it, some of our greatest literary works are about death and dying. Eventually, everyone will face the issue. Of course, we’re wired to avoid thinking about death—at least until we cross that line. Even though Jeri had terminal cancer, we never discussed death. I knew everything about her cancer, but I did not know how people died from it. I did not know what to expect. Like everyone else, I was in death-denial mode. As a result, I was totally unprepared for Jeri’s death. Later, I kicked myself for being so unprepared. The truth is that there is no manual on how to die from ovarian cancer or almost any other disease. Doctors don’t like to discuss death and dying: it signifies defeat. They will always tell you about one more treatment. The hospice people understand death and dying, but by the time we encounter them it’s too late.
To answer your question. My grieving allowed me to look death squarely in the face. I was not afraid to tackle the issue. In fact, I was ready to go after it head-on. The result are my two books. It takes a very special frame of mind to deal with these issues. I was ready to do it. Like I said earlier, people want to share with me their stories. However, I also learned that they only like to tell their story once. Also, almost everyone I meet wants to help me change the law and legalize assisted dying in the state of Hawaii. So we discuss the issue in legal terms. I’ve noticed that the issue is easier to discuss in legal terms.
Q: Your wife died from ovarian cancer in 2009. Did you write this book while she was dying? If yes, was she a part of the writing.
I wrote both books after Jeri died. She was a big part of the story. It also seems that Jeri did quite a bit of thinking about dying. Later, I was able to decipher some of her deep insights. In the past, Jeri and I coauthored many books. I feel she helped me coauthor these two books. She inspired me to write them. Of course, both books are a tribute to Jeri. If we pass the law in Hawaii, it will be “Jeri’s Bill.”
Thank you, Robert for stopping by Paperback Writer. I wish you continued success with your tour.