Mara Buchbinder, "Scripting Death: Stories of Assisted Dying in America" (U California Press, 2021)

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Over the past five years, medical aid-in-dying (also known as assisted suicide) has expanded rapidly in the United States, and is now legally available to one in five Americans. This growing social and political movement heralds the possibility of a new era of choice in dying. Yet very little is publicly known about how medical aid-in-dying laws affect ordinary citizens once they are put into practice. Sociological studies of new health policies have repeatedly demonstrated that the realities often fall short of advocacy visions, raising questions about how much choice and control aid-in-dying actually affords.

Scripting Death: Stories of Assisted Dying in America (U California Press, 2021) chronicles two years of ethnographic research documenting the implementation of Vermont's 2013 "Patient Choice and Control at End of Life" Act. Author Mara Buchbinder weaves together stories collected from patients, caregivers, health care providers, activists, and legislators to illustrate how they navigate aid-in-dying as a new medical frontier in the aftermath of legalization. Scripting Death explains how medical aid-in-dying works, what motivates people to pursue it, and ultimately, why upholding the "right to die" is very different from ensuring access to this life-ending procedure. This unprecedented, in-depth account uses the case of assisted death as an entry point into ongoing cultural conversations about the changing landscape of death and dying in the United States.

Claire Clark is a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine. She teaches and writes about health behavior in historical context.

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