Dying is, to most, an uncomfortable topic. Even more taboo is assisted dying. Hannig approaches this topic in a sensitive and accessible way, shedding light on a conversation that we as a society should have.— From Zack
"Copies of this book should be in every doctor's office in the country, to educate patients and doctors themselves!" —Diane Rehm, interviewer and narrator of the PBS documentary When My Time Comes
An intimate investigation of assisted dying in America and what it means to determine the end of our lives.
In this groundbreaking book, award-winning cultural anthropologist Anita Hannig brings us into the lives of ordinary Americans who go to extraordinary lengths to set the terms of their own death. Faced with a terminal diagnosis and unbearable suffering, they decide to seek medical assistance in dying—a legal option now available to one in five Americans.
Drawing on five years of research on the frontlines of assisted dying, Hannig unearths the uniquely personal narratives masked by a polarized national debate. Among them are Ken, an irreverent ninety-year-old blues musician who invites his family to his death, dons his best clothes, and goes out singing; Derianna, a retired nurse and midwife who treks through Oregon and Washington to guide dying patients across life's threshold; and Bruce, a scrappy activist with Parkinson's disease who fights to expand access to the law, not knowing he would soon, in an unexpected twist of fate, become eligible himself.
Lyrical and lucid, sensitive but never sentimental, The Day I Die tackles one of the most urgent social issues of our time: how to restore dignity and meaning to the dying process in the age of high-tech medicine. Meticulously researched and compassionately rendered, the book exposes the tight legal restrictions, frustrating barriers to access, and corrosive cultural stigma that can undermine someone's quest for an assisted death—and why they persist in achieving the departure they desire.
The Day I Die will transform the way we think about agency and closure in the face of death. Its colorful characters remind us what we all stand to gain when we confront the hard—and yet ultimately liberating—truth of our mortality.
Anita Hannig is associate professor of anthropology at Brandeis University, where she teaches classes on the cultural dimensions of medicine and death and dying. She spent five years studying how access to assisted dying is transforming the ways Americans die. In recent years, Anita has emerged as a leading voice on death literacy in America, giving interviews for the Washington Post, USA Today, and the Boston Globe. She has written for Cognoscenti, Undark Magazine, and the Seattle Times, among others.