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March 6, 2014 3:39 PM   Subscribe

Sherwin Nuland, surgeon and award-winning author who challenged idea of dignified death, has died at age 83. The son of first generation immigrants, Nuland survived a troubled childhood and succeeded in medical school only to face near-paralyzing depression, for which he was successfully treated with electroconvulsive therapy (first-person TED talk). His award-winning book, "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter", included realistic descriptions of the process of death and helped to frame the national debate on assisted suicide.

Nuland argued that physicians should not prolong life beyond natural limits, but opposed assisted suicide, while understanding personal feelings could sometimes impact the course of treatment, as in the case of his own brother (details in NYT obit).

*Post title is not Nuland's quote, but his epigraph for a memoir about his troubled father.
posted by warm_planet (13 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I was just reading a portion of How We Die yesterday after hearing of his death. The part I read was impressively honest, reflective and humane, both about dying and about doctors' motivations.

posted by LobsterMitten at 3:43 PM on March 6, 2014

How We Die is a wonderful book. I will have to look for his other books - 83 was too young.

posted by leslies at 3:58 PM on March 6, 2014

also Previously, a review by Nuland re: mental illness in men
posted by warm_planet at 3:58 PM on March 6, 2014

posted by janey47 at 4:34 PM on March 6, 2014

posted by antiquated at 4:47 PM on March 6, 2014

How We Die might be in my top 5 influential books in my life.

posted by ChrisTN at 6:03 PM on March 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by lalochezia at 6:11 PM on March 6, 2014

posted by newdaddy at 7:08 PM on March 6, 2014

I had read his book and was very impressed with it. What troubles me, though, is that he died of prostate cancer, a cancer detected with yearly checkups and, treated early, usually saves the life of the person. And that reminded me that the "running doctor," George Sheehan, also died of prostate cancer.
posted by Postroad at 7:15 PM on March 6, 2014

posted by maryrussell at 7:50 PM on March 6, 2014

I heard about this on NPR yesterday. It seemedike a book that I'd be interested to read having recently lost my mom.
posted by Carillon at 9:17 PM on March 6, 2014

I spent 8 yrs in New Haven, and Shep Nuland was one of 2 people I considered a long time mentor. It is to my everlasting shame that I allowed us to fall out of touch. A wonderful guy, always interesting, a great writer and teacher. A great loss, at 83.
posted by Vcholerae at 10:45 PM on March 6, 2014

What troubles me, though, is that he died of prostate cancer

There are different prostate cancers, Postroad, for instance small cell carcinoma of the prostate is particularly nasty (and not detected through routine PSA testing). Many men diagnosed with small cell carcinoma of the prostate present with already metastasised disease.

I wasn't famiar with Nuland or his book. I'll take a read.
Dr. Nuland observed that by writing “How We Die,” he became so acquainted with the end of life that “instead of my belonging to death, death now belongs to me.”
i wonder after his final thoughts.
posted by de at 2:10 AM on March 7, 2014

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