WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE: A MOTHER'S PROMISE TO HONOR HER DAUGHTER'S MEMORY -- a poignant and powerful book dealing with the author's daughter's death, and her decision to die with dignity
Wild and Precious Life by Deborah Ziegler (2017, Ebury Press; 352 pages)
“She’s taking me on a bucket list trip. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska.”
“Bucket list?” The woman looked confused.
“I have a brain tumor and less than six months to live,” Brittany said in a conversational tone of voice.
Brittany Maynard’s interaction with a stranger aboard a sightseeing boat tour at Tracy Arm is a testament to her strength when faced with terminal illness. Deborah Ziegler’s Wild and Precious Life is a celebration of her daughter’s life. It is the story of Brittany’s life but also addresses her death and circumstances surrounding it that brought the Ziegler family national attention. Brittany died on November 1, 2014 after ingesting prescribed medicine protected under Oregon’s right to die laws. The award-winning documentary How to Die in Oregon had just been released when Brittany received her prognosis. The Ziegler/Maynard family resided in California but moved to Oregon to die with dignity and was in the national spotlight in the weeks preceding her death.
Earlier this year when I was working at Austin Public Library, my branch screened How to Die in Oregon as part of a monthly documentary program. I invited the founder of Texas Death With Dignity, Cindy Merrill, to attend the event and learned my first lesson on this topic in her response to my invitation. I used the term "assisted suicide" and received a quick slap on the wrist, learning how important language is regarding this sensitive topic. Advocates of right to die laws do not view ending terminal illness with dignity and reduced suffering as "assisted suicide," for a number of reasons relating to both words. Under existing right to die laws, there is no assistance. Everyone that chooses to end their suffering is doing so without assistance and with sound mind. Loved ones, and state laws, also do not view such deaths as "suicides" – the cause of death is the terminal illness and the medicine ends the suffering. The term "assisted suicide" is at the root of the controversy of the topic. The term is associated with "Dr Death" Kevorkian and has implications that family and friends may be actively involved with the death of a loved one.
Wild and Precious Life is neither dark nor sad. It is the story of Brittany’s full life, which happens to end at a young age and with some control easing the suffering. Death With Dignity is not assisted suicide. After Brittany Maynard passed, her mother moved back to California and advocated for right to die laws, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in 2015. In states without right to die laws, hospice patients and other terminally ill patients are often prescribed morphine to be administered by untrained loved ones to reduce pain. Right to die laws place the responsibility, and provide instructions, to the patient.
Wild and Precious Life is Brittany’s story and How to Die in Oregon provides more insight to the topic for interested parties. Sitka Public Library has other interesting books in our collection that provide wider perspective on the uncomfortable topic of mortality including All of Us: Americans Talk about the Meaning of Death by Patricia Anderson. All of Us is a collection of interviews and essays from 60 individuals from diverse backgrounds that broadens perspective and inspires the reader to enjoy life.
Find this title in our catalog: Wild and Precious Life
Recommended by: Andrew