Friday Reads: The Right to Die


“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Topics may be new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

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Have you read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal:  medicine and what matters in the end during our town-wide read this year?  Are you following along with the stories in the local newspapers about a Falmouth doctor fighting for the legal right to end his life because he is terminally ill?   If you have an interest in the complex issue of physician assisted death or euthanasia and want to learn more about it, I recommend a reference book recently added to our collection:  The Right to Die by Howard Ball.

As part of the series of reference books called Contemporary World Issues, The Right to Die is written for students in high school and college working on research papers, as well as activists, policy makers and yes, general readers.  It provides reliable, balanced and current information from a wealth of sources in a clear manner.  The publisher writes about the series, “Each book, carefully organized and easy to use, contains an overview of the subject, a detailed chronology, biographical sketches, facts and data and/or documents and other primary source material, a forum of authoritative perspective essays, annotated lists of print and non-print resources, and an index.  Readers of books in the Contemporary World Issues series will find the information they need in order to have a better understanding of the social, political, environmental, and economic issues facing the world today.”

For example, the “Profiles” section contains entries for people and organizations grouped according to whether they support or are opposed to Death with Dignity Laws.  Each entry provides a brief background of the person’s role and opinion on the issue, as well as other helpful information.  The entry for Atul Gawande, which is among the longest entries, states: “… his writing about how one should approach death is extraordinarily beautiful; any person interested in exploring the parameters of the right to die – regardless of the person’s predisposition – will do well to read Gawande’s ethical-medical philosophy of death and dying.”

You can find this book in the reference department with call # REF 179.7 BAL.  It cannot be checked out, but you can spend as much time with it as you like in one of our easy chairs by the window.


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