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Unplugged

Unplugged
William H. Colby
New York: AMACOM, 2006
R726 .C637 2006

As America watched the life of the profoundly brain-damaged Terri Schiavo come to a sad and slow end, a firestorm of passion, fear, hyperbole, and religious and ethical dilemmas erupted from inside the American psyche, resulting in a contentious debate on how we define life and death at the start of the 21st century.

If a person can open her eyes, smile, and flutter her hands, is she conscious? Do we know without a shadow of a doubt when someone has suffered brain death? Are hospitals required to sustain life at all costs? Do family members have the right to pull the plug on those in a persistent vegetative state? Should states and courts intervene, or should a person be allowed to die with dignity? What would Terri Schiavo have wanted? What would you want?

These were some of the questions posed during the painful public spectacle in 2005. Unplugged provides nuanced yet accessible, unbiased answers to some of the perplexing legal, ethical, medical, and personal issues at the heart of the right-to-die debate. One of the nation's foremost legal experts on the topic, William Colby uses the poignant, high-profile cases of Terri Schiavo, Nancy Cruzan, and Karen Ann Quinlan as a lens through which to examine the 30-year old debate - and to help readers come up with sensible answers for themselves.

Based on court records, personal interviews, and a firsthand vantage point, Unplugged chronicles the extraordinary medical advances that allow us to live longer, healthier lives, but can also make it confoundedly difficult to die. Colby discusses current laws and proposed legislation that affect our ability to make end-of-life decisions and provides insights into decisions we may face abut elderly family members, including resuscitation, feeding tubes, and dementia. A portrait of the overwhelming pain that often engulfs families confronting end-of-life decisions, his book also offers tips for writing living wills and an overview of hospice care.

As the field of medicine grows more sophisticated, more and more people of all ages - and their families - will face the emotionally searing and complicated questions of when to stop treatment and how to die. Unplugged helps bring clarity and focus to these extraordinarily difficult decisions.

Quoted from dust jacket.