An alternative is offered by doctors like Lonny Shavelson in the U.S., who helps Californians take advantage of their state's assisted dying laws. Relatives sometimes tell him that the patient's final moments are the first time they've seen them comfortable in years. (Shavelson's nurse says of one mainstream doctor that 'he will pry the lid off a coffin to try another treatment'.) Natural deaths, argues Shavelson, often happen when a relative has left the hospital, or just popped out of the room. With a planned death everyone can say goodbye properly, even compose their final words.
There’s also plenty of compassion, plenty of nuance and plenty of complex thought. Engelhart is a skilled storyteller. She marshals a mass of questions and arguments. Why should you help someone who’s in physical pain to die, but not someone in mental pain? Who defines “unbearable” suffering? Why is it OK to help someone to take a lethal drug, but not OK to inject them with one when they can’t? (In the Netherlands and Belgium, of course, it is. Young people and even children can be killed by a sympathetic doctor.)