On Modern Dying, and How We Might Save It

“I’ve been thinking a lot lately about death and suffering,” starts my latest piece for Cafe. It’s true, death has been on my mind—particularly how damaging our notions of aging and dying are. We don’t control the circumstances of our birth, and we don’t control when or how we ultimately die, but we should be able to control important details like where it happens, who we want to be there, the pain we feel and our sense of independence in the end. Fortunately, more Americans seem to be questioning this, including Atul Gawande, author of a new book called Being Mortal, and Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who ended her own life with drugs prescribed to her under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. Gawande, Maynard and others argue that we need to explore and expand our end-of-life options. These include independent living, positive thinking, Death with Dignity and psychedelic therapy.

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