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December 8: Sherwin Nuland Examines Death

Lawrence Bush
December 8, 2016
Sherwin B. Nuland (Shepsel Ber Nudelman), a surgeon and professor at the Yale School of Medicine who wrote the bestselling 1994 book, How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for its honest portrayal of end-of-life biological breakdown and its critique of the medical system’s futile struggles against the inevitable, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1930. Nuland also wrote essays on medicine and bio-ethics for the New Yorker, New York Review of Books, and other top-flight publications, and authored thirteen books, including biographical sketches of Maimonides and Leonardo Da Vinci. He delivered a TED Talk in 2001 (see below) in which he disclosed having severe depression and obsessive thoughts in the early 1970s, and his recovery through electro-shock therapy. Dr. Nuland lived to be 83. “if the classic image of dying with dignity must be modified or even discarded, what is to be salvaged of our hope for the final memories we leave to those who love us? The dignity we seek in dying must be found in the dignity with which we have lived our lives.” --Sherwin Nuland

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.