“Insights for the euthanasia debate from unpacking the concept of dignity”

Here is a link to a very good book review by Margaret Somerville. Somerville reviews “Dignity Therapy: Final Words for Final Days” by Harvey Max Chochinov. (Here is a link for more information about the book from the Oxford University Press website.)  Much of the desire for assisted suicide is “existential distress” and not pain. The elderly often feel a lack of meaning. Assisting in their suicides or promoting euthanasia is one response; dignity therapy is another.

Here is a description of the book from the OUP site:

“Maintaining dignity for patients approaching death is a core principle of palliative care. Translating that principle into methods of guiding care at the end of life, however, can be a complicated and daunting task. Dignity therapy, a psychological intervention developed by Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov and his internationally lauded research group, has been designed specifically to address many of the psychological, existential, and spiritual challenges that patients and their families face as they grapple with the reality of life drawing to a close. Tested with patients with advanced illnesses in Canada, the United States, Australia, China, Scotland, England, and Denmark, dignity therapy has been shown to not only benefit patients, but their families as well.

In the first book to lay out the blueprint for this unique and meaningful intervention, Chochinov addresses one of the most important dimensions of being human. Being alive means being vulnerable and mortal; he argues that dignity therapy offers a way to preserve meaning and hope for patients approaching death.

Dignity Therapy: Final Words for Final Days is a beautiful introduction to this pioneering and innovative work. With history and foundations of dignity in care, and step by step guidance for readers interested in implementing the program, this volume illuminates how dignity therapy can change end-of-life experience for those about to die – and for those who will grieve their passing.”

Somerville’s review includes this quote from Chochinov:

“Although dying is inevitable, dying poorly ought not to be. In the tradition of the modern hospice movement, ‘dignity therapy’ represents yet another way for clinicians to enhance the quality of life for patients nearing death. ‘Dignity therapy’ is by no means a panacea and not everyone will want or need this patient-affirming, meaning-enhancing approach. However, for patients and families so inclined, I have no doubt that you will be impressed and humbled by what ‘dignity therapy’ might help them achieve. Your patients, their surviving loved ones, and perhaps generations to come will forever be grateful.”

Richard Myers

Richard S. Myers, the Vice-President of UFL, is Professor of Law at Ave Maria School of Law, where he teaches Antitrust, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law, and Religious Freedom. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Kenyon College and earned his law degree at Notre Dame, where he won the law school's highest academic prize. He began his legal career by clerking for Judge John F. Kilkenny of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Professor Myers also worked for Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in Washington, D.C. He taught at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law before joining the Ave Maria faculty. He is a co-editor of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law Tradition: Contemporary Perspectives (Catholic University of American Press, 2004) and a co-editor of Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy (Scarecrow Press, 2007). He has also published extensively on constitutional law in law reviews and also testified before Congressional and state legislative hearings on life issues. Married to Mollie Murphy, who is also on the faculty at Ave Maria School of Law, they are the proud parents of six children - Michael, Patrick, Clare, Kathleen, Matthew, and Andrew. http://www.avemarialaw.edu/index.cfm?event=faculty.bio&pid=11705E7D4E0111010366