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The Troubled Dream of Life

In Search of a Peaceful Death

Daniel Callahan

Publication Year: 2000

Drawing on his own experience, and on literature, philosophy, and medicine, Daniel Callahan offers great insight into how to deal with the rewards of modern medicine without upsetting our perception of death. He examines how we view death and the care of the critically ill or dying, and he suggests ways of understanding death that can lead to a peaceful acceptance. Callahan's thoughtful perspective notably enhances the legal and moral discussions about end-of-life issues.

Originally published in 1993 by Simon and Schuster.

Published by: Georgetown University Press


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pp. 1-9


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pp. 9-10

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Introduction: Can Death be Shaped to Our Own Ends?

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pp. 11-22

Like any other adult with some accumulated years behind me, I have known many people who have died and are no longer part of my life. A few of those deaths are more vivid in my memory than others—in great part, I suspect, because they came to symbolize some of the many possible ways of dying. ...

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Chapter 1. The First Illusion: Mastering Our Medical Choices

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pp. 23-56

Sometimes we are lost and know it. The signposts are unfamiliar and point to places unknown. We realize we must stop and find a new way. At other times, we seem to be following the approved map and yet make little progress. Our doubts and hesitations grow. Where are we going? ...

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Chapter 2. Stripping Death Bare: The Recovery of Nature

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pp. 57-90

Death has two powerful imaginative roles. It reminds us in the most unmistakable terms that our individual lives will encounter sooner or later a fixed boundary that, whatever our hopes and dreams might be, death will have the last word. Death also reminds us, as members of families and societies, of the passing of the generations, of the bite of social time. ...

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Chapter 3. The Last Illusion: Regulating Euthanasia

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pp. 91-119

The figure of death as a stalker, lying in wait for us, is old and familiar. In earlier times, it sought people throughout life, but was more likely to catch them in childhood than in their old age. We have in our day learned increasingly well how to push death from the young to the old. ...

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Chapter 4. Living with the Mortal Self

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pp. 120-155

Every culture carries within it an image of the ideal self. It is usually flattering and ennobling, a picture of what we are to be and to hope for, not what we still are. It is a self-portrait painted from just the right angle, with the filtered sunshine coming through the window, bathing its subjects in the most becoming mixture of shadow and light. ...

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Chapter 5. Nature, Death, and Meaning: Shaping Our End

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pp. 156-186

Two conflicting, even contradictory, understandings of death have long held sway. Death, we have been told, is a part of life, to be embraced with grace and dignity. "How beautifully he accepted death," I have heard said. Death is also reputed, no less frequently, to be the enemy of life, to be resisted and rejected. ...

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Chapter 6. Pursuing a Peaceful Death

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pp. 187-219

On the face of it, one might be forgiven for thinking that death at the hands of modern technological medicine should be a far more benign, sensitive event than death in earlier times. Do we not have a much greater biological knowledge, thus enabling more precise prognoses of death? ...

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Chapter 7. Watching and Waiting

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pp. 220-231

Although I did not understand it then, when my longtime friend asked me to visit him at his farm during my summer vacation his purpose was almost surely to pull together the strands of our relationship over the years and, without directly letting me know it, to say goodbye. ...


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pp. 232-246


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pp. 247-255

E-ISBN-13: 9781589014718
E-ISBN-10: 1589014715

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2000