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The Inevitable

Dispatches on the Right to Die

Katie Engelhart

St. Martin's Griffin

The Inevitable Download image

ISBN10: 1250827965
ISBN13: 9781250827968

Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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More states and countries are passing right-to-die laws that allow the sick and suffering to end their lives at pre-planned moments, with the help of physicians. But The Inevitable moves beyond margins of the law to the people who are meticulously planning their final hours—far from medical offices, legislative chambers, hospital ethics committees, and polite conversation. Further still, it shines a light on the people who help them: loved ones and, sometimes, clandestine groups on the Internet that together form the “euthanasia underground.”

Katie Engelhart, a veteran journalist, focuses on six people representing different aspects of the right to die debate. Two are doctors: a California physician who runs a boutique assisted death clinic and has written more lethal prescriptions than anyone else in the U.S.; an Australian named Philip Nitschke who lost his medical license for teaching people how to end their lives painlessly and peacefully at “DIY Death” workshops. The other four chapters belong to people who said they wanted to die because they were suffering unbearably—of old age, chronic illness, dementia, and mental anguish—and saw suicide as their only option.

Spanning North America, Europe, and Australia, The Inevitable offers a deeply reported and fearless look at a morally tangled subject. It introduces readers to ordinary people who are fighting to find dignity and authenticity in the final hours of their lives.


Praise for The Inevitable

“Explores what might be called the right-to-die underground, a world of people who wonder why a medical system that can do so much to try to extend their lives can do so little to help them end those lives in a peaceful and painless way . . . Engelhart gives eloquent voice to different sides of the intricate arguments.”—Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker

“Engelhart ably sets out the case for the right to choose when to die. I find it hard to imagine how a decent and rational person could resist it.”—Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene

The Inevitable challenges us to keep looking and asking hard questions, even if we are uncomfortable . . . I couldn't stop reading.”—Anne–Marie Slaughter, author of Unfinished Business

“[A] searching, compassionate narrative . . . Evenhandedly and without undue criticism, Engelhart brings forth the counterarguments . . . but she offers enough convincing evidence about the efficacy and ethical standing of the right-to-die movement that many readers will be persuaded of its value to society."Kirkus Reviews

“Through exhaustive reporting, Engelhart unflinchingly captures unsettling exit scenes that force readers to think about whether people must fulfill a ‘duty to live’ or whether they should be able to choose what they consider to be ‘dignity in dying.’”Booklist

“A must-read for anyone concerned about quality of life at the end of life.”Library Journal (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


Modern Medicine

The first thing Dr. Lonny Shavelson thought when he stepped into the room was, This is a bad room to die in. It was small and stuffy and there weren’t enough chairs. He would have to rearrange things....

About the author

Katie Engelhart

Katie Engelhart is a journalist and documentary filmmaker, based in Toronto and New York City. She is also a National Fellow at New America. She was the recipient of the 2021 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting and the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Journalism. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and many other publications. Previously, she was a graduate student of History and Philosophy at Oxford University.

Owain Rich

Katie Engelhart

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