Living Will, Living Well: Reflections on Preparing an Advance Directive.


168 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-88864-494-7
DDC 362.17'5




Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.


Minimally, the “publish or perish” world of the academy expects that the contents of doctoral dissertations will be mined for conference papers and/or articles in refereed journals. The academic ideal, however, is the dissertation’s transformation into a book, something that Godkin, currently Regional Ethicist with Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga and a University of Toronto assistant professor, has done with “Apprehending Death: The Older Adult’s Experience of Preparing an Advance Directive,” her 2002 dissertation completed at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Nursing.


Readers seeking a how-to book on preparing their own living will, aka an advance directive, will eventually get that information, but Godkin’s doctoral research was more concerned about the process that seniors used in arriving at the creation of a living will than she was in its exact contents. Drawing heavily from the structure and content of chapters 4–8 of her dissertation, Godkin explores five themes which serve as the book’s chapter titles: “Protecting Self and Others”; “Facing One’s Mortality”; “Talking about Death”; “Choosing an Ally”; and “Getting It Done.” In her study, Godkin interviewed 15 seniors whose reflections on preparing an advance directive are given voice through the narration of Godkin’s composite creation, Alice Dawson, 84, whose “conversations” appear in italics while Godkin’s analysis is in regular print. The book concludes with an eight-page Reference List and four appendices, with one being her interview questions, the second a “Sample Advance Directive,” and the final two “Legislative Guidelines” and “Educational Resources.”


Godkin saw three audiences for Living Will, Living Well: individuals, especially older adults, who are considering preparing an advance directive; their family members or friends who would play a supportive role, including being the ally who would endeavour to ensure that the advance directive’s terms were actualized; and health care providers. Godkin believes members of the last group because they see their goal as preserving life, often find themselves in conflict with living wills and, therefore, need to become better informed. Though the book is generally quite readable, given that two of the audiences are just average Canadians, Godkin needed to abandon some of the academic writing style, especially the reference citations within the text. Recommended.


Godkin, M. Dianne., “Living Will, Living Well: Reflections on Preparing an Advance Directive.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,