Death Is That Man Taking Names: Intersections of American Medicine, Law, and Culture / Edition 1

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Overview

"The American culture of death changed radically in the 1970s. For terminal illnesses, hidden decisions made by physicians were rejected in favor of rational self-control by patients asserting their "right to die" - initially by refusing medical treatment and more recently by seeking physician-assisted suicide. This new approach rested on two seemingly irrefutable propositions - first, that death can be a positive outcome for individuals whose suffering has become intolerable; and second, that death is an inevitable and therefore morally neutral biological event. In Death Is That Man Taking Names, Robert A. Burt suggests, however, that a contrary attitude persists in our culture - that death is inherently evil, not just in practical but also in moral terms. He maintains that the ethos of rational self-control cannot refute, but can only try unsuccessfully to suppress, this contrary attitude. The inevitable failure of this suppressive effort provokes ambivalence and clouds rational judgment in many people's minds, paradoxically leading to inflictions of terrible suffering on terminally ill people." In the 1970s, judicial reforms of capitol-punishment and abortion policy were driven by similarly high valuations of rationality and public decision making - rejecting physician control over abortion in favor of individual self-control by pregnant women, and subjecting jury decisions for capital punishment to "rationally guided" supervision by judges. These reforms, too, attempted to suppress persistently ambivalent attitudes toward death and therefore have been prone to inflicting unjustified suffering on pregnant women and death-sentenced prisoners.
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Editorial Reviews

Sherwin Nuland
This book is enormously important, beautifully reasoned and written with crystal clarity by an author of wide scholarly experience, brilliant insights and extraordinary erudition. It is the first book length study I've seen that reasons from the individual psychology of all stakeholders. It ultimately provides the only truly revealing way to understand the personal and civic conundrums surrounding dying, which have always been characterized by irrational thinking, inconsistencies of behavior and paradoxes of personal viewpoints.
Thomas H. Murray
Once you acknowledge the profound and inescapable ambivalence that shapes our attitudes toward death, what can we learn about our death-dealing policies and practices, from end-of-life care and assisted suicide to the death penalty? Robert Burt's Death is That Man Taking Names provides extraordinary insights in eloquent and elegant prose. All thoughtful people who are seriously interested in the deeper roots and broader implications of our policies concerning death should read this remarkably original and provocative book.
Washington Montly
An enormously important book, filled with original insights that bear on the often convoluted public discourse surrounding such issues as physician-assisted suicide, end-of-life care, abortion, and the death penalty, as well as the private sorrow and anguish of families and patients.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Robert A. Burt is Alexander M. Bickel Professor of Law at Yale University. He is the author of The Constitution in Conflict (1992), Two Jewish Justices: Outcasts in the Promised Land (California, 1981), and Taking Care of Strangers: The Rule of Law in Doctor-Patient Relations (1979).

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgments
1 Good Death 1
2 Hidden Death 27
3 Death at War 47
4 Judges and Death 67
5 Doctors and Death 87
6 Choosing Death 106
7 The Death Penalty 123
8 All the Days of My Life 157
Notes 187
Index 219
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