-- Half of people who die in hospitals suffer severe untreated pain.
-- Residents were abused in one-third of U.S. nursing homes in 2003.
-- Health expenses are the nation's leading cause of personal bankruptcy.
These are just a few of the incredible findings in Last Rights, an expose of America's substandard care of those who are dying. Recent medical advances have dramatically reduced sudden causes of death (cardiac arrest, strokes, accidents). Today our lives end slowly, providing an unprecedented opportunity for meaningful closure -- free from pain, among loved ones, with affairs in order and spiritual calm attained.
Instead, most Americans discover that doctors have minimal training in providing this kind of care, and will seek to extend life no matter how painful, expensive and futile that effort might be. Patients and families watch as their wishes are ignored. They experience a nightmare of hospitals, specialists, high-tech treatments, and helplessness in dealing with a medical system that means well but does not know how to listen.
It doesn't have to be that way. Last Rights tells the stories of people whose last days were pain free, and who lived life fully right up to the last moment. It shows how patients and families can regain control of the dying process, creating family intimacy like never before.
Bolstered by both scientific research and touching portraits of men and women from all walks of life, Last Rights offers a hopeful, profound vision for patients, doctors, and families: a way to honor the dying during their life's greatest vulnerability, a chance for families to reconnect, an opportunity for the medical system to treat patients with ultimate respect, a time to give comfort and compassion to those we most love.
"LAST RIGHTS paints a frightening picture of the disorganized, deficient and disastrous ways many people are cared for and die. Thanksfully, Kiernan goes beyond expose to uncover hopeful progress and practical ways to protect and nurture the people we love." --Ira Byock MD, author of Dying Well and The Four Things That Matter Most
"Damn, I wish I'd had this book before my own father died. Part a guide to thinking through the policy questions surrounding the end of life, and part an informal handbook for helping deal with the deaths of your own loved ones, it also offers a final and supreme gift: the chance to begin thinking about what your own life means in the context of its inevitable end." -- Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, and Oil and Honey
"A well-consider prescription for the entire population. ... Gripping first-person stories and interviews with exceptional caregivers make the human case for national reform. A superb resource for boomers dealing with their parents' final days and anxious to exert more control over their own rites of passage, as well as for health professionals who need to hear the story from the other side." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Stephen Kiernan's message is one for all of us who will face the prospect of caring for a dying family member or friend. LAST RIGHTS is a compelling examination." -- Donald Schumacher, president, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
"Most people find it difficult to face their own mortality and that of their loved ones. This book compassionately and skillfully addresses this difficult emotional issue. This well-written and thoughtful book, filled with surveys, interviews and personal stories, is highly recommended." -- Library Journal
"With an uncommon mix of stories and scholarship, Stephen Kiernan has described the challenges that remain at life's end, despite efforts to reform care over the past few decades. With candor, clarity, and an advocate's sense of urgency, he seeks to understand why our acute care system ha sbeen so resitent to change, and how we can infuse greater humanity to life's final chapter." -- Joseph J. Fins MD, Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics, Weill Medical College, Cornell University, and author of A Palliartive Ethic of Care: Clinical Wisdom at Life's End