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Dr. Tom Preston has just published Patient-Directed Dying, a book that he says is “a manifesto calling for mercy and reasoning in helping terminally ill patients die a peaceful death.” In it he makes a strong argument for legalizing physician aid in dying .

In Patient-Directed Dying Dr. Preston tells the stories of five dying patients and his discussions with them. With this readable method he shows how dying is a process, how this process is fundamentally altered by modern medicine such that few of us die naturally, and why patients—not physicians or others, should be able to direct their dying. He gives compelling reasons why physician aid in dying is not suicide, and why it is ethical and consistent with other already legal medical practices that help patients die.

Dr. Preston explains how ancient ideas and customs impede understanding of how we die and serve to prolong the suffering of dying patients. He shows how physician aid in dying has been demonized by distortion and misapplication of the ancient concept of sanctity of life, and how we should recognize the sanctity of death when we have made life ungodly. “When death becomes more natural than life we should have no obligation to sanctify a life that has been medically transformed into something alien and unnatural.”

Dr. Preston shows why the state interest should be in helping people die peacefully after medical treatment can not restore natural life, and why physicians should abandon the ancient practice of withdrawing from patients when their treatments are no longer effective, and should help their patients die peacefully. “We as a society have deferred to a medical profession that has not adapted to the consequences of its own technology.” He debunks claims that legalized aid in dying would be abused for financial, social, or political reasons.

Patient-Directed Dying will be a great aid to families and friends of patients who are suffering at the end, and it will help patients wrestle with the difficult moral and religious questions that arise when life has been artificially prolonged, as in the case of Terry Schiavo. “When we have made life artificial and harmful for a person who is suffering with a terminal illness and does not wish to continue life, we must allow patient-directed aid in dying.”

Patient-Directed Dying, IBSN 0-595-38144-8, is published by iUniverse (Editor’s Choice), Feb., 2006. Available at www.iUniverse.com, www.BarnesandNoble.com, www.Amazon.com, and through order from bookstores, $17.95.

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