Final Essay Assignment: Sherwin Nuland’s How We Die
Follow the Guidelines for Humanities Essays and write a 4-6 page critical argument responding to one of the topics listed below or to an approved topic of your own choice. The paper is due by midnight on April 25th in turnitin.com via Blackboard. The essay must focus on Sherwin Nuland’s book of essays, How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, and it much show familiarity with the text as a whole. However, it should keep in mind the broader context of the course, and it may incorporate any of the materials studied during the semester.
Choose and refine one of the following topics to suit your purpose, or choose a topic that came up in class. If you choose the latter, make sure to run your argument by me first.
1. Consider Nuland’s objectives in writing How We Die and the “Lessons Learned” he arrives at in the final chapter and “Coda.” What are the” lessons learned,” and how are they significant? In light of this, what do you see as the value of this text to patients, families, healthcare professionals, and readers in general?
2. Nuland comments repeatedly on the importance of “clinical wisdom” vs. biomedical (laboratory) knowledge in the treatment of dying patients. What is his position on laboratory science, and why does he feel the biomedical approach may be misguided under certain circumstances? Consider how Nuland might have responded to Jason and Dr. Kelekian.
3. Think about Nuland’s style of writing, in particular how he balances biomedical realism with literary strategies. How does Nuland supplement his account of clinical facts with other literary devices, including narrative examples, personal observations, imagery, and autobiography? How does this contribute to or detract from his message?
4. Is How We Die simply what Nuland claims he intends: an attempt to “demythologize dying…to present it in its biological and clinical reality,” or does he seem to have another agenda? What is it, and how does he communicate it?
5. Given the popularity of physician writing recently, what impressions of Nuland as a person and physician are communicated and how? How does this particular work argue for the popular appeal of writing by physician authors? What about Nuland may make his text appealing to readers?