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Book Title: Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives on Euthanasia and Mortality|
The size of the: 1.86 MB
Edition: Three Rivers Press
Date of issue: March 24th 1998
ISBN 13: 9780609801345
The author of the book: M. Scott Peck
Format files: PDF
Read full description of the books Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives on Euthanasia and Mortality:After finishing this book and chewing on it, I realized that M. Scott Peck has a view similar to Emily Dickinson: He believes that death is an ideal space for encountering God. Yes, he has "euthanasia" in his title, but what he's really calling for is a rejection of secularism that has overtaken the discussion, the policies and the processes of death and dying. He's trying to reinsert God, spirituality and religiosity into what has become mainly a legal, medical and "rational" set of choices of the an individual's will.
Again, this book is not about the right to die; it's really about the need for people to relinquish control and to accept God's will in their lives--and the act of dying is a place that even the most stubborn control freak is most compelled to acquiese control if all other events in their life prior have failed to convince them of their own limits. If I have a reason for giving this only 3 stars, it's because Peck takes us around the block and over hill and dale (setting up key terms and explaining his assumptions) before getting to his major claim.
So discussing euthanasia is actually Peck's means and not his end, but he does spend some time (although maybe only 20% of the text) talking about the topic of euthanasia directly or just slightly askew. He calls for a careful balance between prolonging the dying process long enough to encounter God but keeping it free from unnecessary suffering caused either by 1) too much medical intervention when the body wants to die and 2) too little administration of drugs that can help the body and soul relinquish and accept death that is absolutely imminant.
Now to explain how he spends more than 200 pages getting to this point and why 80% of the book seems so tangential to euthanasia.
Peck's book examines the patch of real estate that at first seems to exist among these three tensions: the trajectory of the body towards decay and death; the power of the medical community to use drugs, surgery and machines to sustain life; and the individual's (or family's) will to choose how to act in response.
He then does a TON of work to establish some of his premises about the psyche before foregrounding a fourth tension: the will of God in determinine when and how we die. This I found to be the most interesting and unique aspect of the book, and I was hoping for more case studies / narrative detail of individuals wrestling between those four forces: the body, the medicine, the individual's will and God's will. However, he ends more with a call to action: "People, think about God more in the debates about end of life!" asks Peck. I agree. But I would have better enjoyed him leading by example.
Nevertheless, it asks some good questions and describes the issues in pretty good detail. I prefer some chapters over others, so let me break it down for those who are interested in how he sets up his argument (which goes on a walk around the block in the middle, IMHO).
Ch 1: Pulling the Plug: an overview of the events and challenges of end-of-life.
Ch 2: Physical Pain: This was informative to me, since I am not a medical professional, and I have not been close to anyone in the dying process.
Ch 3: Emotional Pain: Here he used many examples from his psychiatric practice, including those who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Ch 4: Murder, Suicide and Natural Death: A philosophical definition of terms. I see this as part of his efforts to say what he is not describing. But he has some compassionat descriptions of people dying from these causes as well as identifying some "gray areas."
Ch 5: Secularism: Here he describes various postures that people can take towards religion, God and spirituality.
Ch 6: The Creaturelinss of Humans: Here he describes his terms and formulas for describing the human mind/ego/soul. (And then emphasizes as he does throughout that these things are beyond formula and beyond description).
Ch 7: The Learning of Dying. To me this is the CORE of the book: What is God trying to teach us during the process of dying? And why is it such hard work to be a good student to these lessons?
Ch 8: Euthanasia: A Typical Case. Here he describes an end-of-life choice that he found totally devoid of God, spirituality and religiousity.
Ch 9: Assisted Suicide: Here he talks about some current publications and some case studies of people more involved in end-of-life decisions. I find that he gets a little manic and unfocused. I think he built up to a great solution to the problem, but he concedes that deciding how to act in the face of dying is really still a gray thing, a personal thing, a complex thing to discuss. He's temped by formulas and guidelines. (He's an admitted control freak.) But he always caustions against them--even when using them here and there. He doesn't want Easy Answers, but he wants 1) something different than how the medical community can sometimes prolong emotional and physical suffering that occurs in the dying process and 2) something different than the quick decision some people make to take their lives before they get a chance to encounter God and perform some soul-changing psycho-spiritual work that the dying process invites.
Ch 10: The Hope of the Euthanasia Debate: The title says it all. He really wants to see people complicate the debate on euthanasia and foreground more the psychological and spiritual growth that can come at end of life. He wants less suffering physically, emotionaly and spiritually. Exactly how this will happen and how this will look is still vague.
Here is a key quote from his conclusion:
"I believe the major underlying disease is the secularism of U.S. society as manifested in its denial of the soul. The greatest hope I can see on the horizon for the healing of this disease lies in the euthanasia debate. If many are willing to think deeply about the issues of the debate, then many will encounter their own souls, often for the first time" (232).
Read information about the authorDr. Peck was born on May 22, 1936 in New York City, the younger of two sons to David Warner Peck, a prominent lawyer and jurist, and his wife Elizabeth Saville. He married Lily Ho in 1959, and they had three children.
Dr. Peck received his B.A. degree magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1958, and his M.D. degree from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1963. From 1963 until 1972, he served in the United States Army, resigning from the position of Assistant Chief Psychiatry and Neurology Consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and the Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster. From 1972 to 1983, Dr. Peck was engaged in the private practice of psychiatry in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
On March 9, 1980 at the age of 43, Dr. Peck was nondenominationally baptized by a Methodist minister in an Episcopalian convent (where he has frequently gone on retreat).
Dr. Peck's first book, The Road Less Traveled, was published by Simon & Schuster in 1978. The book has sold over six million copies to date in North America alone, and has been translated into over 20 languages.
Dr. Peck's second book, People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil, was published by Simon & Schuster in October of 1983. It is recognized as a ground-breaking contribution to the field of psychology, and is currently a best seller in Japan.
Dr. Peck's third book, What Return Can I Make? Dimensions of the Christian Experience, was published by Simon & Schuster in December of 1985. It contains Marilyn Von Waldner's singing as well as Dr. Peck's essays and audio commentary. It was republished by Harpers (San Francisco) in the fall of 1995, under the new title, Gifts For the Journey: Treasures of the Christian Life, and is being republished again by Renaissance Press.
A fourth book entitled The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, was published in June 1987 by Simon & Schuster and is recognized as another ground breaking contribution to the behavioral sciences.
Dr. Peck's fifth book and first work of fiction, A Bed By the Window: A Novel of Mystery and Redemption, was published by Bantam in August, 1990. It was hailed by the New York Times as "something of a miracle".
The Friendly Snowflake: A Fable of Faith, Love and Family, Dr. Peck's sixth book, and first for children as well as adults, (Turner Publishing, Inc.) and was illustrated by Dr. Peck's son, Christopher Peck, and published in October 1992.
Dr. Peck's seventh book, A World Waiting To Be Born: Civility Rediscovered, a work on organizational behavior, was published by Bantam in March 1993.
Meditations From the Road, was published by Simon & Schuster in August 1993.
Further Along the Road Less Traveled, a collection of Dr. Peck's edited lectures (1979-1993) was published by Simon & Schuster in October 1993.
In Search of Stones: A Pilgrimage of Faith, Reason and Discovery was published by Hyperion in April 1995. It is also illustrated by his son, Christopher. It has been hailed by Publisher's Weekly as a "quirky, magical blend of autobiography, travel, spiritual meditation, history and Arthurian legend."
A second novel In Heaven As On Earth: A Vision of the Afterlife, was published by Hyperion in the spring of 1996.
The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety, is a synthesis of all Dr. Peck's work and was published by Simon & Schuster in January 1997.
With his background in medicine, psychiatry and theology he has also been in a unique position to write Denial of the Soul: Spiritual and Medical Perspectives in Euthanasia and Mortality, this first "topical" book, published by Harmony Books (Crown) in April 1997.
Golf and the Spirit: Lessons for the Journey was published by Harmony Books in 1999. It too is illustrated by Christopher Peck.
Dr. Peck was a nationally recognized authority on the relationship between religion and science, and the science o
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