A Gentle Death


249 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55013-553-8
DDC 362.1'75





Reviewed by Ian W. Toal

Ian W. Toal is a nurse in Barrie, Ontario.


This book is a very powerful argument for the right of terminally ill
people to decide how and when to end their lives. The author is a
registered nurse who has cared for the terminally ill and who has
personally suffered with chronic illness and cancer. Seguin is concerned
not so much with the care needed to support people who are dying, but
with competent people who are confronted with severely compromised
quality of life. She argues that the “most precious possession a human
being can claim is that of [one’s] own person, and that must include
the right to self determination. ... The right to decide how, and even
if, we will live must be a part of our ownership of our person, or it is
surely a hollow possession.”

Seguin deals with self-determination through a number of case
studies—people she encountered and the problems they faced living and
dying. She also examines societal and medical attitudes toward illness
and death; offers advice on how to choose a doctor, how to plan ahead to
ease suffering and/or choose dying, and the state of the law in Canada;
and includes a list of further readings and Canadian support groups. All
of this is done with compassion, wisdom, and style. The structure of the
book is logical and complete.

It is important to note what this book is not about. It is not an
impartial examination of the debate on euthanasia. It does not, for
example, look at the implications of active euthanasia for bedridden,
end-stage Alzheimer’s sufferers, or at the potential for abuse when
others decide quality-of-life issues.

For anyone concerned with palliative care or the process of dying, it
should be required reading.


Seguin, Marilynne., “A Gentle Death,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/7014.