Choosing to Live, Choosing to Die

  • Nikki Tate
  • Orca Book Publishers, 2019

Young people are often eager to talk about and learn about personal freedoms. One of the least-discussed personal freedoms is the right to die, the subject of Nikki Tate’s new book, Choosing to Live, Choosing to Die. While readers whose lives are just beginning may not imagine a book about how to think about medically assisted death has much to do with them, in fact the book tackles an urgent topic that goes to the core of rights discourses and invites readers to move beyond platitudes and superficial notions.

Tate starts the books with a clear foundation: everyone will die one day, but we don’t necessarily control how or when it will happen. Perhaps we should. She then brings the question of choice into focus by introducing the experience of her own mother’s difficult death. This experience becomes a touchstone as Tate builds out her discussion. She defines key terms, sketches a historical context for questioning the right to die, and presents cases for readers to consider. She draws in philosophy and religion as well as legal and international perspectives on medically assisted death. Tate covers a remarkable amount of ground in a compact book (generously supported by graphics) and leaves space for readers’ own contemplation and consideration.

Medically assisted death is a difficult, important topic, and Tate handles it gracefully. Choosing to Live, Choosing to Die may be controversial reading in some communities, but teens (and adults) need opportunities for the critical thinking and personal reflection that the book requires. I hope it finds a broad readership.