Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Butler-Knocking on Heaven

Katy Butler’s parents had lived good lives and hoped to die good deaths. One succeeded; one failed. The book describing their final journeys — a visionary blend of memoir and investigative reporting — is a map through the medical labyrinth for the 28 million Americans helping care for aging parents.

Butler, an award-winning journalist, was living thousands of miles away when her vigorous and self-reliant seventy-nine-year-old father suffered a crippling stroke. She flew East and became thoroughly embroiled in her parents’ lives.
In time, she saw her father’s suffering prolonged by an advanced medical device, one of a panoply of recent inventions capable of prolonging “life” beyond its natural end. The device was pacemaker, and it kept her father’s heart going while doing nothing to prevent his slide into dementia, near-blindness, and misery. When he said, “I’m living too long,” mother and daughter faced wrenching moral questions. Where is the line between saving a life and prolonging a dying? When do you say to a doctor, “Let my loved one go?”