Monday, July 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Sherwin Nuland | 'How We Die' author, 83

Sherwin Nuland
Sherwin Nuland

Sherwin Nuland, 83, a medical ethicist and surgeon who opposed assisted suicide and wrote an award-winning book about death called How We Die, died of prostate cancer Monday at his home in Hamden, Conn.

"He told me, 'I'm not scared of dying, but I've built such a beautiful life, and I'm not ready to leave it,' " daughter Amelia Nuland said Tuesday.

Dr. Nuland was born in New York and taught medical ethics at Yale University in New Haven. He was critical of the medical profession's obsession with prolonging life when common sense would dictate further treatment was futile. He wrote that nature "will always win in the end, as it must if our species is to survive."

"The necessity of nature's final victory was accepted in generations before our own," he wrote.

How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter was published in 1994 and won a National Book Award for nonfiction. In it, Dr. Nuland describes how life is lost to diseases and old age. It helped foster national debate over end-of-life decisions and doctor-assisted suicide, which he called "the exact opposite direction in which we ought to go."

The book, a best-seller in dozens of countries, contains a passionate plea to his colleagues to recognize when to let go and allow patients to die in peace and dignity.

Dr. Nuland said in a 1996 interview that he hoped when his time came he would go gently "without suffering and surrounded by loved ones."

His daughter said he and his family had talked all the time about his illness and his impending death. She said there were times when he was "very much at peace" and occasional times toward the end when he seemed scared and sad.

"He wasn't scared of death itself, but he loved everything about his world and the people in his world and life and life," she said. "And he didn't want to leave." - AP

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