Saturday, May 14, 2011

Finding Frances by Janice Van Dyck

Frances has led her life; raising three children and providing a partnership with her husband, Bill.  Now in her seventies, she finds herself in deteriorating health with COPD and heart issues.  Frances has always been determined to end her life on her own terms.  She nursed her father through a long painful death and does not want to either go through that or put her family through the experience of watching her die inch by inch.

The children, long scattered, come home when Frances is hospitalized.  She is determined to have no surgery or treatments.  William is the eldest son and the middle child.  He was to have been the doctor, but stopped his medical training short of that goal due to his disagreements with Western medicine.  Sugar, the oldest child, has remained physically close to her parents, and sees her mother's condition realistically.  Randy, the youngest, is an environmental lawyer who has checked out from the family emotionally years ago.  Frances' husband, Bill, is determined to do whatever it takes to keep Frances with him for as long as he can.

Frances agrees to have treatment when she finds out that her insurance will pay for treatment but not for hospice care if she does nothing and takes a while to die.  She gets through the initial treatment and she and her family must make decisions about life and death going forward from that point.  Who should be the final decider?  Should it be the individual involved?  Should spouses and children have a say?  How involved in research and questioning the medical establishment should the family be?  Van Dyck wraps her novel around these questions.

This book is recommended for readers who are facing this question, or know that they will in the future, and for anyone interested in ethical dilemmas and how best to solve them.  The characters are written to portray all the sides of the issue, and the reader is led through their decision processes, hesitations and questions.  This is a common issue and one that can heal or tear a family apart.  Van Dyck has written a courageous book that can help readers make the painful decisions necessary.

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