Like so many of us, award-winning writer Katy Butler always assumed her aging parents would experience healthy, active retirements before dying peacefully at home. Then her father suffered a stroke that left him incapable of easily finishing a sentence or showering without assistance. Her mother was thrust into full-time caregiving, and Katy became one of the 24 million Americans who help care for aging parents. In an effort to correct a minor and non - life threatening heart arrhythmia, doctors outfitted her father with a pacemaker. The device kept his heart beating but did nothing to prevent his slide into dementia, incontinence, near-muteness, and misery. After several years, he asked his wife for help, telling her, "I am living too long."
Mother and daughter faced a series of wrenching moral questions: When does death cease being a curse and become a blessing? Where is the line between saving life and prolonging a dying? When is the right time to say to a doctor, "Let my loved one go?"
When doctors refused to disable the pace-maker, sentencing her father to a protracted and agonizing death, Katy set out to understand why. Her quest had barely begun when her mother faced her own illness, rebelled against her doctors, refused open-heart surgery, and instead met death head-on. Knocking on Heaven's Door, a revolutionary blend of memoir and investigative reporting, is the fruit of the Butler family's journey.
With a reporter's skill, a poet's eye, and a daughter's love, Butler explores what happens when our terror of death collides with the technological imperatives of modern medicine. Her provocative thesis is that advanced medicine, in its single-minded pursuit of maximum longevity, often creates more suffering than it prevents. Butler lays bare the tangled web of technology, medicine, and commerce that modern dying has become and chronicles the rise of Slow Medicine - a growing movement that promotes care over cure.
Knocking on Heaven's Door is a visionary map through the labyrinth of a broken and morally adrift medical system. It will inspire the necessary and difficult conversations we all need to have with loved ones as it illuminates a path to a better way of death.
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Very relevant story that could be executed better
Taking the product out of the author's hands more. Narration would have benefited from another person's interpretation. A stronger editor could have narrowed the story more and prevented Ms. Butler's frequent repeats and overuse of forced metaphors.
The story is very personal, yet universal. This is Ms. Butler's strength, however, much time is spent on working out her own personal issues with her family, with childhood issues repeated a number of times. This slows down the story, lessens the impact, and at times is tiresome.
- Clyde A. Warden Jr.
A better way to narrate a book about death?
The narrator droned on and on--much like a dirge.
Perhaps--although I would suggest he or she try reading the book--and avoid the audible format.
Not sure--John Lee?
This question does not pertain to this book.
The author's thesis has merit, but her atheism was a huge obstacle to my finding it applicable to my life. I would periodically nod to myself agreeing, "She has a point here." But then her super depressing voice and "story" with no twinge of joy or hope would overwhelm my ability to relate.
I too lost my father recently so have been thinking more about death and agree that our society could benefit from discussing its inevitability. I still miss my father and talk with my mother and siblings about him and the feelings of emptiness brought on by his death --but then I recall his deep faith and how much he looked forward to Heaven. When my father took his last breath, my younger sister rushed to open the windows and doors so that the angels could enter. And later when all 8 of us lovingly zipped up the bag containing his body, and walked alongside staff from the funeral home as they wheeled the gurney to the hearse, we knew he had already gone to Heaven. It was such a comfort and a beautiful memory. In conclusion, I felt sorry for the author quite often—she was without God, faith or community, sisters or any children of her own, left alone with all that grief.