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Book Review - How We Die - Reflections on Life's Final Chapter" by Sherwin B. Nuland


Book Review - How We Die - Reflections on Life's Final Chapter" by Sherwin B. Nuland

"How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter" is a book written by Sherwin B. Nuland, a surgeon and medical historian. The book explores the different ways in which people die, and it provides a frank and honest look at the process of dying. The book is divided into eight chapters, each one discussing a different aspect of dying.


The first chapter discusses the different ways in which people die, including heart failure, cancer, and dementia. The author provides a detailed account of what happens to the body during each of these types of deaths. He also discusses the emotional and psychological aspects of dying and how they can affect both the dying person and their loved ones.

The second chapter delves deeper into the medical aspects of dying, including the role of modern medicine in prolonging life and the ethical considerations that arise when treating terminally ill patients. The author argues that doctors and patients should work together to make informed decisions about end-of-life care.

The third chapter explores the history of death and dying, including the role of religion and the changing attitudes towards death over time. The author discusses how different cultures and societies have approached death and the rituals and practices that have evolved around it.



The fourth chapter is a personal reflection by the author on his own experiences with death and dying, including the deaths of his parents and his own struggle with depression. This chapter provides a more emotional and introspective look at the subject of dying.

The fifth chapter discusses the physiological process of dying, including the stages of dying and the symptoms that occur as the body shuts down. The author provides a detailed account of what happens to the body during the final moments of life.

The sixth chapter explores the idea of a "good death" and what that means for different people. The author argues that a good death is one that is peaceful and painless and allows the dying person to maintain their dignity and autonomy.

The seventh chapter discusses the role of hospice and palliative care in providing comfort and support to dying patients. The author argues that these services should be more widely available and that they should be integrated into the healthcare system.

The final chapter is a call to action, urging readers to confront their own mortality and to think about how they want to die. The author argues that we need to have open and honest conversations about death and dying and that we need to take responsibility for our own end-of-life care.



Overall, "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter" is a thought-provoking and informative book that provides a candid look at the process of dying. The author's personal reflections and experiences add depth and emotion to the subject, making it a compelling read for anyone interested in end-of-life care and the human experience of dying.

Notable quotes

"We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world." - Joseph Campbell (quoted in the preface)


"Each of us owes it to ourselves to think seriously about our own death and dying, and to plan accordingly. Only by doing so can we ensure that we will have a good death - one that is peaceful, painless, and allows us to maintain our dignity and autonomy until the end." (Chapter 6)

"The dying need to be able to express themselves in whatever form they choose, and to have someone else listen to them. It is a basic human need, and it is one that we can all provide for one another." (Chapter 7)

"The physician's duty is to inform and educate, not to prescribe or decide. The patient's right is to make the decision, not to be told what to do. And the role of modern medicine is to offer every possibility, not to limit choices." (Chapter 2)

"The dying person is both a participant and an observer of the final drama of life, and it is in this role that he or she teaches us the most about what it means to be human." (Chapter 1)


Popular Reviews

"This is a book that everyone should read. It is a book that everyone should own, and keep with them throughout their lives. It is a book that will change the way you think about death and dying." - The New York Times

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"Nuland writes with an eloquence and clarity that make his subject both absorbing and accessible. His combination of scientific expertise and personal experience gives this book an immediacy and poignancy that are rare in works of medical writing." - The Washington Post

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"This is a deeply moving book that combines scientific knowledge with philosophical reflection. It is a book that will stay with you long after you finish reading it." - The Guardian

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"Nuland is a gifted writer, and his prose is both beautiful and haunting. He has a unique ability to convey the physical and emotional experiences of dying with both precision and compassion." - The Boston Globe

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"This is an important book that challenges us to confront our own mortality and to think about how we want to die. It is a book that will inspire and empower readers to take control of their own end-of-life care." - The Huffington Post

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Awards

  • National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1994

  • Book of the Year Award from the American Medical Writers Association in 1995

  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 1994

  • Finalist for Pulitzer Prize

These awards recognize the book's important contribution to the fields of medicine and literature, as well as its ability to engage and inform readers about the complex and emotional subject of dying.


Useful Links




Book Details

  • Title: How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter

  • Author: Sherwin B. Nuland

  • Publisher: Vintage Books (a division of Random House)

  • Publication date: January 19, 1995

  • ISBN-10: 0679742441

  • ISBN-13: 978-0679742449

  • Pages: 320

  • Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches

  • Weight: 9.6 ounces

  • Language: English

  • Format: Paperback and e-book

  • Genre: Non-fiction, medical literature, death and dying, philosophy

  • Amazon Kindle Price Rs 449

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