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Shadowdad cover
Shadowdad
When is Life Not
Worth Living?

by Richard Watrous

 

Living can be worse than dying, particularly when one is struck by an incapacitating illness or an accident from which there is no hope of recovery. It is a state sometimes referred to as "helpless hopelessness."

That is what happened to Holly Watrous, father of the author, Richard Watrous. And it is a true story that Richard tells with candor and touching sincerity in Shadowdad. Holly was devastated by successive strokes that robbed him not only of his dignity and his abilities, but also his will to live. He lingered on in continual pain and perpetual despondency. Trapped inside a broken body he could no longer control, Holly wanted to die, but die he could not. There was yet another problem: despite his living willís instructions to the contrary, his attending doctors took exceptional measures to sustain him. That is, all the doctors but one. Behind closed doors that doctor confided to Richard what he believed to be a compassionate option for Holly. Richard knew that the doctorís offer would give his father the peace he so desperately sought. But could he do it? Should he do it?

From discussions around the sickbed of a loved one to arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, we, as individuals and as a nation, are struggling to answer the question, when is life not worth living -- and who should decide? To date, Oregon is the only state that has passed a law allowing for doctor-assisted suicide, but nearly twenty-five other states are wrestling with the issue at this very moment.

What is undeniably true is that assisted-suicide is an issue that will increasingly demand our attention and consideration. It cannot be otherwise, because we presently have sixty-five million people over fifty years of age -- and those who are eighty or older constitute the fastest-growing segment of our population. Many in that group, because of modern medicineís unprecedented ability to keep people alive, will ultimately face a quality-of-life issue. And any discussion dealing with quality of life inevitably leads to the concept of assisted-suicide.

Shadowdad is a book that deserves to be read, discussed...and debated.


 

205 pages - Paperback - ISBN: 1-882349-09-1 - $11.95


Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. First Stroke

2. Rehearsal

3. Gypsies

4. Gains and Losses

5. The Wolfsbane Blooms

6. Looking For a Hero

7. The Will to Live, the Will to Die

8. Rediscovering Dad Fatherís Day

9. Comets and Sons

10. Again

11. An Afternoon Visit

12. Numb

13. The Golden Year

14. A Death in the Family

15. Thinking the Unthinkable

16. Home Video

17. I Gotta Go

18. Burnout

19. Nursing Home

20. Maintaining Torture

21. Death Watch

22. Snowfall

23. Eulogy
 

Epilogue: Trying to Find a Better Way


Endorsements
 

"Dying is blessed with potential for healing and resolution, and cursed with potential for physical and personal disintegration. Rick Watrous' moving story about the end of his fatherís life reminds us that dying can sometimes be unforgiving even in the face of a loving family and skilled caregivers, and death is certainly not always the enemy."
"Shadowdad is an extremely well-written account of a common American tragedy...and the mixed blessing and curse of modern medicine."

- Timothy E. Quill, M.D.
Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, University of Rochester
Author of: A Midwife Through the Dying Process: Stories of Healing and Hard Choices at the End of Life

"Shadowdad is a gripping, deeply disturbing and powerfully compelling story of a family paralyzed by fear, guilt and misplaced values, forcing them to watch a helpless man being kept alive in the face of clear evidence of his wish to die. The tension in the book is relentless, the pain palpable, and the story searing! Itís a must read for all caregivers and an excellent text for life and death decision makers in the medical world."

- Samuel C. Klagsbrun, M.D.
Executive Medical Director of Four Winds Hospitals (New York State)
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine

"Shadowdad is a powerful commentary on how much our laws, regulations and mores on death and the dying have become dysfunctional due to advanced medical technology having empowered medical doctors not only to prolong life but to prolong the death of their patients."

"Shadowdad pleads convincingly for a reassessment of our current constraints on individual choices involving ones own end-of-life decisions. The book should be a must read for everyone. Sooner or later everyone is inevitably involved in ones own end-o-life decision."

- Hideto Kono, Chairman
Governorís Blue Ribbon Panel on Living and Dying with Dignity, Hawaii

"In Shadowdad, Richard Watrous has presented a landmark insight into the real life realities of dying as well as the difficulties in continuing to live. Vivid sensitivities of both the patient and loved ones are presented with the reader left to reassess many of our contemporary value judgements about life and death. The disturbing non-compliance with patient "living-wills" by health facilities or state (NH) laws is a dirty secret that has been unpublicized. All of the self righteous preachers of life at any cost would do well to read this book to have a moral reawakening."

- Eugene T. Tillock, Ed.D., L.N.H.A.
Executive Director, New England Gerontological Association

"Shadowdad shows us the true face of a life worse than death. Too often the debate about dying in America is one of words, not lives. Richard Watrous brings the story home, and touches us with his honesty. By bearing witness to this tragic story, we recognize a health care system that insists on sustaining the body while abandoning the self."

- Barbara Coombs Lee
Executive Director, Compassion in Dying Federation
Chief Petitioner for Oregonís Death with Dignity Act

"Watrous tells a tale that canóand probably willóhappen to any American family pushed to the edge by advances in medical technology. This is a frank and touching story highlighting how these personal tragedies must move from the sickbed to changes in law and policy so that people can die in a humane manner without being treated to death, having to commit suicide, or arranging for a doctor to surreptitiously kill them."

- Alan Meisel
Professor of Bioethics and Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh
Author of Award-winning book, The Right to Die
Member of Ethics Working Group of the White House Task Force on Health Care Reform, 1993
Assít. Director For Legal Studies at the Presidentís Commission for the Study of Ethical problems in Medicine, 1982

"This is the moving story of a man whose mental and physical powers were decimated by a series of strokes, and of the sacrifices his wife and family made in caring for him for five years. It deals with the shortcomings of advanced directives and the problems of disagreements in the family. The book points out that divine intervention, usually in the form of infections, is the only currently acceptable mode of exodus and the question of whether or not to institute treatment must be given very serious consideration far in advance of the occurrence."

- Charles McKhann, M.D.
Professor of Surgery, Yale University
Author of: A Time to DieóThe Place for Physician Assistance

"A book that should prove valuable in enlightening the public to the need for more Heathcare Advanced Directives and in-depth debate on when we should Ďlet go.í"

- Don A. Udall, M.D.
Newport Beach, CA
Surgeon & freelance writer

"If Shadowdad is read by every Governor and Legislator, this book will help settle the debate over who decides when a life is not worth living."

- Norman Goldstein, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Clinical Professor, Medicine (Dermatology)
John A. Burns School of Medicine University of Hawaii
Editor, Hawaii Medical Journal
Member, Governorís Blue ribbon Panel on Living and Dying with Dignity, Hawaii


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