The Woman Who Decided to Die: Challenges and Choices at the Edges of Medicine

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Advances in medical technology force us to struggle with new and often gut-wrenching decisions. How do we know when someone is dead and not just in a coma? Should a convicted felon qualify for a new heart? In The Woman Who Decided to Die, novelist and medical ethicist Ronald Munson takes readers to the very edges of medicine, where treatments fail and where people must cope with helplessness, mortality, and doubt. Using personal narratives that place us right next to doctors, patients, and care givers as they make decisions, Munson explores ten riveting case-based stories, told with a writer's eye for illuminating detail. These include a young woman with terminal leukemia more worried about her family than herself, a stepfather asked to donate a liver segment to his stepson, a student who believes she is being controlled by invisible Agents, and a psychiatrist-patient who prizes his autonomy until the end. Raising fundamental questions about human relationships, this is an essential book about the very nature of life and death.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Munson provides a sympathetic, thought-provoking discussion of issues many of us will eventually face for ourselves, our patients, or our family members. There are no easy answers." --Science-Based Medicine

"Ronald Munson's literary talents shine in The Woman Who Decided to Die. The people who are forced to face these ethically charged decisions come to life, in contrast to the wooden case scenarios that are characteristic of the literature of medical ethics. All clinicians can profit from reading this book ... especially valuable for medical and nursing students and clinical trainees... Narrative medical ethics at its best."--The New England Journal of Medicine

"Munson's stories are captivating, and each ends with a lesson in medical ethics....illuminating...."--Library Journal

"The engaging narrative shines as an outstanding example of medical literature, and the richness of the cases will provide ample fodder for anyone who is learning to move beyond informed opinion to develop a reasoned analysis and ethically based argument. This book should be a welcomed introductory text in courses in medical ethics and is broad enough to engross those with a general interest."--Journal of Legal Medicine

Library Journal

Munson (philosophy of science & medicine, Univ. of Missouri, St. Louis) presents true stories of ethical dilemmas he has encountered in the course of his career. The 31-year-old "woman who decided to die" had advanced cancer and didn't want to put her husband and young children through the hassles of 300-mile trips to the hospital, so she refused further treatment. Is that a sufficient reason to refuse treatment? Each chapter starts a new story about a patient with an ethical problem. Should a college student who hears voices be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, even if it's unclear whether he or she is a danger to him- or herself? Is it wrong for a stepfather to refuse to donate a kidney to his adult stepson? Munson's stories are captivating, and each ends with a lesson in medical ethics. Though illuminating for lay readers, this probably wouldn't go at a public library. Recommended for academic and health sciences collections.
—Elizabeth Williams

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195331011
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/27/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 512,399
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald Munson is Professor of Philosophy of Science and Medicine at University of Missouri-St. Louis. His books include the award-winning Raising the Dead: Organ Transplants, Ethics, and Society (OUP, 2002); Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Medical Ethics; and the novels Nothing Human, Fan Mail, and Night Vision.

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Table of Contents

1 The Woman Who Decided to Die 1

2 Like Leaving a Note 11

3 The Agents 30

4 Unsuitable 56

5 Nothing Personal 69

6 "He's Had Enough" 83

7 Not More Equal 103

8 The Last Thing You Can Do for Him 118

9 The Boy Who Was Addicted to Pain 137

10 It Seemed Like a Good Idea 155

Notes 183

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