Dr. Sherman Nuland, author of the book, “How We Die,” passed away from prostate cancer Monday at the age of 83. Although he strongly opposed assisted suicide, Nuland, who taught medical ethics at Yale University, was highly critical of the medical profession’s “obsession with prolonging life when common sense dictated that further treatment is futile.”
“Nature will always win in the end, as it must for our species to survive,” he wrote. “The necessity of nature’s final victory was accepted in generations before ours.”
“How We Die,” describes how life is lost to diseases and old age, and helped foster a national debate over assisted suicide when published in 1994, and contained a passionate plea for the medical world to allow patients to “die with dignity, surrounded by friends and relative, not by strangers and beeping monitors.”
Born Shepsel Ber Nudelman in the Bronx, NY on December 8, 1930, Nuland was the son of Orthodox Russian. Although he later came to think of himself as an agnostic, he continued to attend synagogue throughout his life.
Dr. Nuland also noted that when he was growing up death was considered a natural occurrence and was accepted when certain signs that it was near were seen. “Now when the same signs appear, it is a call to operate one more time, to put yet another tube in, install a fourth pacemaker, or start another round f chemotherapy, etc.”
A best seller in dozens of countries, the book earned a National Book award for non-fiction.