When is Life Not
Living can be worse than dying, particularly when one is struck by an
incapacitating illness or an accident from which there is no
hope of recovery. It is a state sometimes referred to as
That is what happened to Holly Watrous, father of the author,
Richard Watrous. And it is a true story that Richard tells with
candor and touching sincerity in Shadowdad. Holly was devastated
by successive strokes that robbed him not only of his dignity
and his abilities, but also his will to live. He lingered on in
continual pain and perpetual despondency. Trapped inside a
broken body he could no longer control, Holly wanted to die, but
die he could not. There was yet another problem: despite his
living willís instructions to the contrary, his attending
doctors took exceptional measures to sustain him. That is, all
the doctors but one. Behind closed doors that doctor confided to
Richard what he believed to be a compassionate option for Holly.
Richard knew that the doctorís offer would give his father the
peace he so desperately sought. But could he do it? Should he do
From discussions around the sickbed of a loved one to
arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, we, as individuals and
as a nation, are struggling to answer the question, when is life
not worth living -- and who should decide? To date, Oregon is
the only state that has passed a law allowing for
doctor-assisted suicide, but nearly twenty-five other states are
wrestling with the issue at this very moment.
What is undeniably true is that assisted-suicide is an issue
that will increasingly demand our attention and consideration.
It cannot be otherwise, because we presently have sixty-five
million people over fifty years of age -- and those who are
eighty or older constitute the fastest-growing segment of our
population. Many in that group, because of modern medicineís
unprecedented ability to keep people alive, will ultimately face
a quality-of-life issue. And any discussion dealing with quality
of life inevitably leads to the concept of assisted-suicide.
Shadowdad is a book that deserves to be read, discussed...and
|205 pages - Paperback - ISBN:
1-882349-09-1 - $11.95
1. First Stroke
4. Gains and Losses
5. The Wolfsbane Blooms
6. Looking For a Hero
7. The Will to Live, the Will to Die
8. Rediscovering Dad Fatherís Day
9. Comets and Sons
11. An Afternoon Visit
13. The Golden Year
14. A Death in the Family
15. Thinking the Unthinkable
16. Home Video
17. I Gotta Go
19. Nursing Home
20. Maintaining Torture
21. Death Watch
Epilogue: Trying to Find a Better Way
"Dying is blessed with potential for healing and resolution,
and cursed with potential for physical and personal
disintegration. Rick Watrous' moving story about the end of his
fatherís life reminds us that dying can sometimes be unforgiving
even in the face of a loving family and skilled caregivers, and
death is certainly not always the enemy."
"Shadowdad is an extremely well-written account of a common
American tragedy...and the mixed blessing and curse of modern
- Timothy E. Quill, M.D.
Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, University of Rochester
Author of: A Midwife Through the Dying Process: Stories of
Healing and Hard Choices at the End of Life
"Shadowdad is a gripping, deeply disturbing and powerfully
compelling story of a family paralyzed by fear, guilt and
misplaced values, forcing them to watch a helpless man being
kept alive in the face of clear evidence of his wish to die. The
tension in the book is relentless, the pain palpable, and the
story searing! Itís a must read for all caregivers and an
excellent text for life and death decision makers in the medical
- Samuel C. Klagsbrun, M.D.
Executive Medical Director of Four Winds Hospitals (New York
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of
"Shadowdad is a powerful commentary on how much our laws,
regulations and mores on death and the dying have become
dysfunctional due to advanced medical technology having
empowered medical doctors not only to prolong life but to
prolong the death of their patients."
"Shadowdad pleads convincingly for a reassessment of our
current constraints on individual choices involving ones own
end-of-life decisions. The book should be a must read for
everyone. Sooner or later everyone is inevitably involved in
ones own end-o-life decision."
- Hideto Kono, Chairman
Governorís Blue Ribbon Panel on Living and Dying with Dignity,
"In Shadowdad, Richard Watrous has presented a landmark
insight into the real life realities of dying as well as the
difficulties in continuing to live. Vivid sensitivities of both
the patient and loved ones are presented with the reader left to
reassess many of our contemporary value judgements about life
and death. The disturbing non-compliance with patient
"living-wills" by health facilities or state (NH) laws is a
dirty secret that has been unpublicized. All of the self
righteous preachers of life at any cost would do well to read
this book to have a moral reawakening."
- Eugene T. Tillock, Ed.D., L.N.H.A.
Executive Director, New England Gerontological Association
"Shadowdad shows us the true face of a life worse than death.
Too often the debate about dying in America is one of words, not
lives. Richard Watrous brings the story home, and touches us
with his honesty. By bearing witness to this tragic story, we
recognize a health care system that insists on sustaining the
body while abandoning the self."
- Barbara Coombs Lee
Executive Director, Compassion in Dying Federation
Chief Petitioner for Oregonís Death with Dignity Act
"Watrous tells a tale that canóand probably willóhappen to
any American family pushed to the edge by advances in medical
technology. This is a frank and touching story highlighting how
these personal tragedies must move from the sickbed to changes
in law and policy so that people can die in a humane manner
without being treated to death, having to commit suicide, or
arranging for a doctor to surreptitiously kill them."
- Alan Meisel
Professor of Bioethics and Professor of Law, University of
Author of Award-winning book, The Right to Die
Member of Ethics Working Group of the White House Task Force on
Health Care Reform, 1993
Assít. Director For Legal Studies at the Presidentís Commission
for the Study of Ethical problems in Medicine, 1982
"This is the moving story of a man whose mental and physical
powers were decimated by a series of strokes, and of the
sacrifices his wife and family made in caring for him for five
years. It deals with the shortcomings of advanced directives and
the problems of disagreements in the family. The book points out
that divine intervention, usually in the form of infections, is
the only currently acceptable mode of exodus and the question of
whether or not to institute treatment must be given very serious
consideration far in advance of the occurrence."
- Charles McKhann, M.D.
Professor of Surgery, Yale University
Author of: A Time to DieóThe Place for Physician Assistance
"A book that should prove valuable in enlightening the public
to the need for more Heathcare Advanced Directives and in-depth
debate on when we should Ďlet go.í"
- Don A. Udall, M.D.
Newport Beach, CA
Surgeon & freelance writer
"If Shadowdad is read by every Governor and Legislator, this
book will help settle the debate over who decides when a life is
not worth living."
- Norman Goldstein, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Clinical Professor, Medicine (Dermatology)
John A. Burns School of Medicine University of Hawaii
Editor, Hawaii Medical Journal
Member, Governorís Blue ribbon Panel on Living and Dying with
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