'How We Die' author Nuland dies in Conn. at age 83

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 4, 2014 at 11:52 pm •  Published: March 4, 2014
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HAMDEN, Conn. (AP) — Dr. Sherwin Nuland, a medical ethicist who opposed assisted suicide and wrote an award-winning book about death called "How We Die," has died at age 83.

He died of prostate cancer on Monday at his home in Hamden, said his daughter Amelia Nuland, who recalled how he told her he wasn't ready for death because he loved life.

"He told me, 'I'm not scared of dying, but I've built such a beautiful life, and I'm not ready to leave it,'" she said Tuesday.

Sherwin Nuland was born in New York and taught medical ethics at Yale University in New Haven. He was critical of the medical profession's obsession with prolonging life when common sense would dictate further treatment is futile. He wrote nature "will always win in the end, as it must if our species is to survive."

"The necessity of nature's final victory was accepted in generations before our own," he wrote. "Doctors were far more willing to recognize the signs of defeat and far less arrogant about denying them."

"How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter" was published in 1994 and won a National Book Award for nonfiction, beating out a book about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and three other finalists. In it Nuland describes how life is lost to diseases and old age. It helped foster national debate over end-of-life decisions and doctor-assisted suicide, which he called "the exact opposite direction in which we ought to go."

He said that when he was a boy death was a natural phenomenon, accepted when certain signs and symptoms showed it was near.