Saturday, February 6, 2010

Review: The Last Goodnights: Assisting My Parents With Their Suicides

The Last Goodnights


By John West
Counterpoint
ISBN: 9781582434483
254 Pages

If you are over 50, or sometimes even younger due to your health, you may have considered what you will do when you are older and your health is failing daily. I know I have...and that's why I wanted to read and review The Last Goodnights: Assisting My Parents with Their Suicides.

This isn't a fiction novel where some character is playing as a "death angel" that must be caught. This is a nonfiction true story of a son who was asked to do the hardest thing he'd ever done. Help his parents die...

John West wrote this book for only one reason: to reveal his true-life drama to help move toward changes to our laws that would permit "death by choice" as performed between a doctor and patient.

There is no real discussion about pros and cons, rather it is the heartbreaking story of a son who had two seriously ill parents, who were in pain, and asking for his help to end their lives. Whether you have your own thoughts about this or not, I urge you to read John's story, it is almost unbelievable what happened!

John's father was a well-known psychiatrist and, indeed former chairman of the department at the University of California. His mother was also a practicing clinical psychologist in Los Angeles. In their mid-70s they discussed with their son about their beliefs in freedom of choice--the right to personal privacy and self-determination that would permit individuals to die with dignity.

John's father was literally being eaten by cancer and had about five months to live. If he had lived those months, he would have endured days or weeks or months of agony. He chose to die. His son was there to assist him to take medication to accomplish that choice.

The Plan for his death went off on schedule...

Not so with his mother...

Let me stop to add that this book is not an easy book to read. Imagine if you were asked to assist in someone's death, knowing that you were performing not one, but two...murders...

At least as the law now reads...

Many of us have noted that we think nothing about arranging the death of a loved pet when he is in pain and close to death.

How much more love do we have for our parents and other beloved family members? Yet, we stand helplessly watching...and waiting...as loved ones fade away, oftentimes not knowing their loved ones or even their own names!

I highlight that the trauma, the anguish, the long-term effects of John West's actions were to himself, not to his family. He started to drink excessively, get more and more depressed, and had to be in fear of losing his livelihood (he's a lawyer) and even his own life. Being in this situation was obviously the worst that any child or family member could be put in.

In my opinion, The Last Goodnights by John West just might be one of the most important books you read this year! It was for me!

G. A. Bixler