Reader Comments

“This beautifully written book, testimony to the power of ethnography, brings much needed clarity to end-of-life decision-making in the Netherlands. Frances Norwood shows convincingly how historically and culturally embedded “euthanasia talk” very often serves to enrich and reaffirm social life, and relatively rarely ends in medically assisted death. A book for everyone interested in how we die in contemporary society.” — Margaret Lock, PhD, Author of Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death

“This book is an invaluable ethnographic account of dying in the Netherlands, where unique conditions mean that much-needed lessons can be learned by people involved in end of life care elsewhere. The author provides a sensitive and detailed account of the integration of euthanasia and talk about euthanasia within a palliative approach. The detailed account of individual cases complements existing statistical studies of the prevalence of particular end-of-life decisions, providing the contextual information that such studies are unable to deliver.” — Clive Seale, PhD, Author of Constructing Death: The Sociology of Dying and Bereavement

“As a native of the ‘tribe’ that Frances Norwood describes, I am impressed by the subtleness of her observations. Euthanasia has proved a bone of moral contention and baffling misunderstanding. Norwood succeeds in capturing the natives’ point of view in a manner that only an outsider can do. As an anthropologist I compliment her for the originality of her interpretation of ‘euthanasia talk’ as a way to help patients maintain personhood in the face of decline and to provide family members a voice that honors their central place in the life of the dying person.” — Sjaak van der Geest, PhD, Medical Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

“Frances Norwood’s The Maintenance of Life exposes an interesting irony in the discourse on euthanasia. While legal in the Netherlands, only a small percentage of people seek assisted death. Euthanasia, it seems, has sparked an unofficial movement that allows for a natural life span where people value meaning-making over a quick escape from suffering; where society hears the cries of the suffering and supports them; and where the self-worth of the individual remains intact inspite of illness and infirmaries.” — Christina M. Puchalski, MD, Executive Director of GWish and author of A Time for Listening and Caring: Spirituality and the Care of the Chronically Ill and Dying

“[A] pure pleasure to read… extraordinarily relevant… We can only hope that Congress reads this book quickly, before they vote [on healthcare reform].” — Joost Visser, Medish Contact, weekly magazine for the Royal Dutch Medical Association, now called the Royal Dutch Society for the Promotion of Health (KNMG) (translated from Dutch)

“Everyone who thinks about end-of-life issues should read The Maintenance of Life. It is a beautifully written book on an important topic. Anthropologist Frances Norwood spent 15 months in the Netherlands, learning first-hand how the dying, their families, and their physicians confronted this difficult subject. She tells this powerful and touching story with both a close eye for personal detail and a researcher’s care. After the depressing debate in the U.S. over ‘death panels,’ it is especially important to hear what Norwood has to say: While the Netherlands has allowed euthansia for decades, few there use it. Instead, the simple fact that those with terminal disease have an opportunity to express their wishes makes them less likely to end their lives. It is a powerful lesson for us all.” — Howard Gleckman, researcher with Urban Institute and author of Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking New Solutions to America’s Most Urgent Health Crisis 

“Norwood successfully deepends and clarifies the experience of doctors, patients, and their families with help from philosophers, sociologists, and historians.” — Rien Janssens, Medische Antropologie

“The idea that ‘euthanasia talk’ includes far more than ‘the immediate, the obvious (planning for death)…[but also serves] to affirm social bonds and social life at end of Dutch life’ is a point that seems to a ‘native’ both right and important. It corresponds to the Dutch idea that what they have done is to make euthanasia ‘bespreekbaar’ [discussable], not only in public discourse but also as part of the social process of dying.” — John Griffiths, PhD, Sociology of Law at University of Groningen and co-author of Euthanasia and Law in Europe

“[A] well-written, sensitive, and timely study of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands… Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.” — CHOICE Magazine

The Maintenance of Life will not (and is not meant to) change readers’ opinions (con or pro) about euthanasia.  Instead, it is “for anyone interested in learning more about death in another culture in order to gain some insight into death where you live” (p xxiii). As such, it presents much food for thought.” — The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

“It is indeed a thorough, penetrating and sensitive analysis of Dutch patients requesting euthanasia…” — Dying with Dignity Victoria


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