The Welcome Visitor: Living Well, Dying Well

John Humphrys, Dr Sarah Jarvis

The Welcome Visitor: Living Well, Dying Well

Death is a subject modern society shies away from. Even doctors avoid the word. But if we regard death as a failure in our frantic desire to prolong life at all costs, how can we ever arrive at a humane approach to those whose lives have lost all meaning? John Humphrys asked himself this question when he watched his father’s final sad, lingering, undignified years. His death, when it came at last, was a welcome end to his suffering and the anguish of those who loved him. It inspired this book. Here he takes a wider look at how our attitudes to death have changed as doctors have learned how to prolong life beyond anything that could have been imagined only a few generations ago. He and his co-author Dr Sarah Jarvis, who has 22 years experience of dealing with the dying, confront one of the great challenges facing the western world today. 3.5 out of 5 based on 4 reviews
The Welcome Visitor: Living Well, Dying Well

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Society, Politics & Philosophy, Family & Lifestyle
Format Hardback
Pages 288
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication April 2009
ISBN 978-0340923771
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
 

Death is a subject modern society shies away from. Even doctors avoid the word. But if we regard death as a failure in our frantic desire to prolong life at all costs, how can we ever arrive at a humane approach to those whose lives have lost all meaning? John Humphrys asked himself this question when he watched his father’s final sad, lingering, undignified years. His death, when it came at last, was a welcome end to his suffering and the anguish of those who loved him. It inspired this book. Here he takes a wider look at how our attitudes to death have changed as doctors have learned how to prolong life beyond anything that could have been imagined only a few generations ago. He and his co-author Dr Sarah Jarvis, who has 22 years experience of dealing with the dying, confront one of the great challenges facing the western world today.

Read an extract from the book on the Daily Mail website

Reviews

The Financial Times

Stephen Cave

...a powerful, compassionate book, movingly illustrated by accounts of the many deaths the authors have witnessed... While moderate and thoughtful in tone, The Welcome Visitor is not, however, a balanced survey of the debate and gives little attention to its opponents. The only argument against legalising assisted suicide that the authors take seriously is that it could undermine palliative care – of which they are passionate advocates.

13/04/2009

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The Daily Telegraph

Tracy Corrigan

Humphrys’s narrative is compelling. He is determined to tell it like it is...There is none of the self-indulgence of Julian Barnes’s Nothing to Be Frightened of, or even Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, because Humphrys is more interested in others than in himself... But the book has a structural flaw. It has two authors, so the voice must change from time to time – but this is not managed smoothly.

27/03/2009

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The Times

Susie Boyt

Above all Humphrys and Jarvis want the emergency and the drama to be taken out of death, to make it as comfortable and untroubling as possible for all concerned; this is a noble aim. It is also an exacting doctrine. A good death, according to this book, means that we must cross and dot the t's and i's of ourselves, be satisfied with our achievements and calm and at peace, and behave in a manner becoming and gracious... It is wonderful to die beautifully and at peace but this is a great deal to ask of those facing death.

03/04/2009

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The Sunday Times

Bee Wilson

With such a system [of assisted suicide] in place, suggests Humphrys, his younger brother Bob, who died last year of cancer, would have been “in control of his own death just as he had been in control of his own life”. This is classic Humphrys. He is so sure that he is right — and he often is — that he doesn’t stop to consider whether anything can be so straightforward... It says something about John Humphrys and his preoccupations that he seems to believe that the main justification for euthanasia is maintaining “control”.

05/04/2009

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