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0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Katy Butler Narrator: Katy Butler Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Like so many of us, award-winning writer Katy Butler always assumed her aging parents would experience healthy, active retirements before dying peacefully at home. Then her father suffered a stroke that left him incapable of easily finishing a sentence or showering without assistance. Her mother was thrust into full-time care-giving, and Katy became one of the twenty-four million Americans who help care for aging parents. In an effort to correct a minor and non-life threatening heart arrhythmia, doctors outfitted her father with a pacemaker. The device kept his heart beating but did nothing to prevent his slide into dementia, incontinence, near-muteness, and misery. After several years, he asked his wife for help, telling her, “I am living too long.”

Mother and daughter faced a series of wrenching moral questions: When does death cease being a curse and become a blessing? Where is the line between saving life and prolonging a dying? When is the right time to say to a doctor, “Let my loved one go”?

When doctors refused to disable the pacemaker, sentencing her father to a protracted and agonizing death, Katy set out to understand why. Her quest had barely begun when her mother faced her own illness, rebelled against her doctors, refused open-heart surgery, and instead met death head-on. Knocking on Heaven’s Door, a revolutionary blend of memoir and investigative reporting, is the fruit of the Butler family’s journey.

With a reporter’s skill, a poet’s eye, and a daughter’s love, Butler explores what happens when our terror of death collides with the technological imperatives of modern medicine. Her provocative thesis is that advanced medicine, in its single-minded pursuit of maximum longevity, often creates more suffering than it prevents. Butler lays bare the tangled web of technology, medicine, and commerce that modern dying has become and chronicles the rise of “slow medicine,” a growing movement that promotes care over cure.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A triumph, distinguished by the beauty of Ms. Butler’s prose and her saber-sharp indictment of certain medical habits. [Butler offers an] articulate challenge to the medical profession: to reconsider its reflexive postponement of death long after lifesaving acts cease to be anything but pure brutality.”

    New York Times

  • “A thoroughly researched and compelling mix of personal narrative and hard-nosed reporting that captures just how flawed care at the end of life has become. My hope is that this book might goad the public into pressuring their elected representatives to further transform health care from its present crisis-driven, reimbursement-driven model to one that truly cares for the patient and the family.”

     New York Times Book Review

  • “More than just a guide to dying or a personal story of a difficult death: It is a lyrical meditation on death written with extraordinary beauty and sensitivity.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Butler’s advice is neither formulaic nor derived from pamphlets...[it] is useful, and her challenge of our culture of denial about death necessary...Knocking on Heaven’s Door [is] a book those caring for dying parents will want to read and reread. [It] will help those many of us who have tended or will tend dying parents to accept the beauty of our imperfect caregiving.”

    Boston Globe

  • “A pitch-perfect call for health-care changes in the mechanized deaths many suffer in America.”

    New York Journal of Books

  • “Impeccably reported, Knocking on Heaven’s Door grapples with how we need to protect our loved ones and ourselves.”


  • “[A] deeply felt book...[Butler] is both thoughtful and passionate about the hard questions she raises—questions that most of us will at some point have to consider. Given our rapidly aging population, the timing of this tough and important book could not be better.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • “Astonishingly beautiful. [Butler’s] honest and challenging book is an invitation to all people. Christians included. to reconsider the meaning of drawn-out deaths and extreme measures in a historic and eternal perspective.”

    Christianity Today

  • “Shimmer[s] with grace, lucid intelligence, and solace.”

    Spirituality and Health Magazine

  • “[An] unflinching look at America’s tendency to overtreat [that] makes a strong case for the ‘slow medicine’ movement, which recognizes that ‘dying can be postponed, but aging cannot be cured.’”

    Mother Jones

  • “In this eloquent exegesis on taking control of the end of one’s life, Butler defines a ‘good death’ as one that is free from unnecessary medical intervention and faced with acceptance and dignity.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Butler argues persuasively for a major cultural shift in how we understand death and dying, medicine and healing. At the same time, she lays her heart bare, making this much more than ideological diatribe.”


  • “A forthright memoir on illness and investigation of how to improve end-of-life scenarios…With candidness and reverence, Butler examines one of the most challenging questions a child may face: how to let a parent die with dignity and integrity when the body has stopped functioning. Honest and compassionate thoughts on helping the elderly through the process of dying.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “This is a book so honest, so insightful and so achingly beautiful that its poetic essence transcends even the anguished story that it tells.”

    Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland, author of How We Die: Reflections of Life’s Final Chapter

  • “This book will change you, and, I hope, our society.”

    Anne Lamott, author of Help, Thanks, Wow

  • Selected for the September 2013 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • One of the New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for 2013
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