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[Handbook for Mortals] Read the online version of this authoritative guide to end of life.
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Death With Dignity

When faced with mortality, we all react in different ways. Most people hope for a "good death," however they may define it. There are many books which are available to help you approach death mindfully and plan for end-of-life care in a systematic way. For our recommended selections, visit our bookstore. If you are faced with making decisions about end-of-life care for yourself or someone you love, a good place to start is with the full-text extracts from the Handbook for Mortals, a caring and authoritative guide written by a team of experts in the field.

It's important for a person to express preferences about health care at the end of life. Dying Well book cover This can be done through the use of formal legal documents which grant a durable power of attorney for health care to someone you trust to make decisions for you should you become unable to do so yourself. These directives, which may be called living wills or advance directives, must be tailored to your specific situation and location, as laws vary around the world. These directives may cover any issue you consider important. A very common concern revolves around tube feeding and related issues in palliative nutrition and hydration at the very end, including difficult decisions about withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.

A very important decision is whether or not you wish to choose home or hospice care as an alternative to a hospital setting. Peaceful Dying book cover Whether at home or in a hospital, it's important to demand top-quality palliative care and pain management.

Many faith traditions place emphasis on the importance of conscious preparation for death as a way of showing respect for and acceptance of life's final adventure. Contact with death often gives us an opportunity to become more aware of spiritual realities. Death is not the opposite of life -- it is the opposite of birth.

Getting one's affairs in order also includes working through deep emotions with friends and loved ones, including dealing with grief and bereavement. There are also practical issues around eldercare, estate planning, and planning funeral and memorial arrangements.

The decision to end one's life when death is approaching anyway is sometimes called self-deliverance, rational suicide, physician-assisted suicide (PAS), or voluntary euthanasia; this is a special case of the more general topic of suicide. The "right to die" is the subject of controversial legal battles on an international scale.

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