Letting Go

Dying is one of the most complex events in contemporary American life. The questions raised about this process are moral and legal, and ultimately profoundly human. LETTING GO provides an analysis of such topics as the right to die, suicide, euthanasia, and surrogate decision making. The author discusses the existing and evolving law against the backdrop of the values of autonomy, utility, and human worth. This conversation serves as prodrome to the ultimate question he wishes to address: who decides when and how someone should die?

While the book is written through the filter of law, the author uses thick description to present historically significant cases. These exemplar cases are used to uncover religious perspectives toward human choices in the dying process and to offer a first-rate analysis of the inherent ethical questions. For those familiar with the territory, the exposition of the religious and moral dimensions of some of the more highly publicized cases will not be new. Drawing on the best of the literature in the field, however, the author handles these cases in an accurate and accessible format for the lay reader.

Remarkable are the author’s sensitivity to the more subtle implications of informed consent and his awareness of the practical problems connected with advanced directives. The problems created by multiple decision makers, conflicting values, and lack of clarity in the developing law are discussed.

The conclusions of the book are consistent with an ethicist’s view of law: it should serve as a context for decision making, providing a procedural framework to facilitate and maximize the values of those parties who have a stake in the consequences.