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The Quality of Life: Living Well, Dying Well


J. Lembke. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press. 2004. 209 pp. $22.95. (800) 962-0973.


When author Janet Lembke's mother was a sprightly 78 year old, she made her daughter promise to help her die when the time came: Pills with a stiff Bloody Mary and a hug. But when that time arrived years later, it was not so simple. Her mother had a series of strokes rendering her incapable of rational thought, and Lembke couldn't help her mother die. Lembke wondered what could be done. How best may those of us who have our wits about us care for older, frail adults whose minds are lost forever in the shadows? This book is a result of her quest for answers.


Ms. Lembke examines death by choice-suicide, assisted, and otherwise; advance medical directives; the bioethics of withdrawal of life support; dementia and how to cope with it; hospice; and the quality of life. The text features accounts and advice from the many people she interviewed, as well as a list of resources including those from the Alzheimer's Association, and Life Line, a device for summoning help. The book can be an important reflection for professionals providing end-of-life care and to refer to patients and families seeking assistance.