It’s been fifty years since Joni Eareckson Tada became a quadriplegic after diving headfirst into the Chesapeake Bay in 1967. Over that time, she has risen above not only the challenges that came with her accident, but also from a stage 3 cancer diagnosis and countless other challenges that have come her way. She’s experienced the will to die, depression, and despair that so many others in similar situations to her own have experienced. Her ability to write “When Is It Right To Die?” is supported not only by the research that she has done over the years, but also by the vast experience that she has personally undergone. In short, her expertise it not simply theoretical, it’s experiential as well.
It’s been more than twenty-five years since the original edition of “When Is It Right To Die?” was released. Tada admits in the preface to this new edition that twenty-five years ago, her hope had been to provide a, “primer of sorts to readers whose only exposure to euthanasia was the occasional headline.” She goes on to say that much has taken place in the past twenty-five years to support the idea that people have the “right to die.” That change in the two and a half decades between editions was what led Tada to update her original book.
Tada writes in the introduction, “I am convinced that the principles that guided me and my family through the nightmarish maze of depression, suicidal thoughts, suffering, and death can help others. What we learned as a family can benefit other hurting families.” This is why she wrote and updated this book.
“When Is It Right To Die?” was a gut-wrenching read for me. So much of the conversation around end of life issues seems to hinge on so many factors. Financial. Spiritual. Emotional. Mental. There have been numerous high profile cases that have been highlighted in the media which have focused on these issues. Terri Schiavo. Brittany Maynard. Many of the names of those who were thrust into the spotlight of this important topic may stir in us a world of emotions. Those names will certainly stir up controversy in specific circles.
Tada writes from her own experience, her own research, and she writes with a candor and empathy that let her reader know that the end of life which seem to be reduced to purely mechanical and almost robotic decisions are actually far more complex than many, on both sides of the issue, have fully admitted. How do an individual’s decisions about their own end of life impact themselves, their families, God, and others? While the right of the individual seems to have gained the greatest focus, there is no denying that these decisions and their impact are far more impactful than just the individual.
But there are also a host of difficult questions that need to be wrestled with in order to have a better understanding of just how nuanced the conversation is around end of life issues. Have individuals who have wanted to avoid painful suffering in the end actually cut short their lives prematurely? What defines personhood? Have individuals who have been removed from life support without their consent really been in the perpetual vegetative state that others have claimed they have been in?
As a Christian, Tada sees the value of human life through a different lens than those with no faith background. She holds to the belief that we are created in the image of God and each of us is valuable, regardless of our abilities or inabilities. Taking a life prematurely, in her opinion, seems to contradict this belief.
Tada also mentions other options at the end of life. I was grateful for her mention of hospice as my own experience with my parents and hospice was incredibly positive, especially during a very difficult season of life. The resources and options that are available before the death process has begun may be more numerous than some would admit. She encourages her readers to do their own research and consult a host of counsel regarding advanced medical directives and living wills. Be informed in order to make informed decisions.
“When Is It Right To Die?” was made so much more poignant to me considering who Joni Eareckson Tada is and what he has experienced in her life. Half a century as a paraplegic in a wheelchair coupled with just what she has accomplished in those five decades has given her a stronger voice in this conversation. Her perspective is thoughtful and sensitive, but she is not afraid to express her opinions. Having explored end of life issues before, this book was incredibly helpful. I think that it could be equally beneficial for those who have been seeking a means by which to explore the subject. Even if you are coming from another perspective other than a Christian perspective, the insights that Tada shares can be helpful and I didn’t feel that she ever became preachy in how and what she shared.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Booklook Bloggers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)