Knocking on Heavens Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death Audiobook, by Katy Butler Play Audiobook Sample

Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death Audiobook

Knocking on Heavens Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death Audiobook, by Katy Butler Play Audiobook Sample
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Read By: Katy Butler Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Listen Time: at 1.0x Speed 7.00 hours at 1.5x Speed 5.25 hours at 2.0x Speed Release Date: September 2013 Format: Unabridged Audiobook ISBN: 9781442366244

Quick Stats About this Audiobook

Total Audiobook Chapters:


Longest Chapter Length:

28:50 minutes

Shortest Chapter Length:

06:26 minutes

Average Chapter Length:

19:37 minutes

Audiobooks by this Author:


Other Audiobooks Written by Katy Butler: > View All...

Publisher Description

In this visionary memoir, based on a groundbreaking New York Times Magazine story, award-winning journalist Katy Butler ponders her parents’ desires for “Good Deaths” and the forces within medicine that stood in the way.

Katy Butler was living thousands of miles from her vigorous and self-reliant parents when the call came: a crippling stroke had left her proud seventy-nine-year-old father unable to fasten a belt or complete a sentence. Tragedy at first drew the family closer: her mother devoted herself to caregiving, and Butler joined the twenty-four million Americans helping shepherd parents through their final declines.

Then doctors outfitted her father with a pacemaker, keeping his heart going but doing nothing to prevent his six-year slide into dementia, near-blindness, and misery. When he told his exhausted wife, “I’m living too long,” mother and daughter were forced to confront a series of wrenching moral questions. When does death stop being a curse and become a blessing? Where is the line between saving a life and prolonging a dying? When do you say to a doctor, “Let my loved one go?”

When doctors refused to disable the pacemaker, condemning her father to a prolonged and agonizing death, Butler set out to understand why. Her quest had barely begun when her mother took another path. Faced with her own grave illness, she rebelled against her doctors, refused open-heart surgery, and met death head-on.

With a reporter’s skill and a daughter’s love, Butler explores what happens when our terror of death collides with the technological imperatives of medicine. Her provocative thesis is that modern medicine, in its pursuit of maximum longevity, often creates more suffering than it prevents.

This revolutionary blend of memoir and investigative reporting lays bare the tangled web of technology, medicine, and commerce that dying has become. And it chronicles the rise of Slow Medicine, a new movement trying to reclaim the “Good Deaths” our ancestors prized.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door is a map through the labyrinth of a broken medical system. It will inspire the difficult conversations we need to have with loved ones as it illuminates the path to a better way of death.

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“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 


  • “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
  • “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.”

    — More
  • “[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.”

    — BookPage
  • “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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About Katy Butler

Katy Butler, a former finalist for a National Magazine Award, has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and other publications.Her work is anthologized in The Best American Science Writing, The Best American Essays, and The Best Buddhist Writing. A winner of the “Science in Society” award from the National Association of Science Writers, she lives in northern California.