The Last Good Nights

“Death is as natural as life, and should be sweet and graceful.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Last Good Nights Review

A husband and wife, both medical professionals, are gravely ill. Rather than living in pain, they choose to end their lives, and they turn to their son for help. Despite the legal risks and emotional turmoil it is sure to cause him, he agrees — and ultimately performs an act of love more difficult than any other.

The Last Goodnights provides a unique, powerful, and unflinching look deep inside the reality of one of the most galvanizing issues of our time: assisted suicide. Told with intensity and bare honesty, John West’s account of the deaths of two brave people is both gritty and loving, frightening and illuminating, nerve-wracking and even, at times, darkly humorous. As West’s story places him in the middle of one of the most difficult experiences anyone can endure, it also offers a powerful testament to the act of death by choice, and reveals all the reasons why end-of-life issues are far too personal for government intrusion.

Intimately told, The Last Goodnights displays the unnecessary pain and suffering that is often forced upon dying people and their families, and honors the choice to die with purpose and dignity. In the end, this story is not just about death — it is also about love, courage and autonomy.

“A significant story”
– The Washington Post

“Deeply moving”
– The Times of London

“Harrowing and heartbreaking … a gripping account”
– The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Extraordinary … Riveting”
– The Wisconsin State Journal

“You will sympathize”
— The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Might be one of the most important books you read this year!”
– Book Reader’s Heaven

“An incredible story, but it’s true, and whatever your feelings about helping someone die, The Last Goodnights adds something valuable to the conversation.”
– Popdose.com

“Simple, tender, honest, brutally honest, The Last Goodnights will linger in the back of your mind long after you’ve finished reading it.”
– Luxury Reading

“A book that I just did not want to put down … a book that will open your mind”
– My Overstuffed Bookshelf

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The Last Goodnights is being included in the course curricula at a growing number of educational institutions, from U.C.L.A.’s “Mind, Medicine, and Culture” to St. Edward’s University’s “Human Growth and Development” to Ashford University’s “Legal and Ethical Issues for Health Professionals.” Additionally, John West has been an invited lecturer at the University of Southern California’s School of Gerontology as well as Claremont McKenna College and the Brentwood and Sepulveda V.A. Hospitals’ Psychiatry Grand Rounds.

Book Clubs: John West has appeared at various book club discussions across the country, usually via speakerphone but sometimes in person when scheduling allows. Please feel free to contact him regarding participating in your book club’s discussion of The Last Goodnights.

Video Preview:
If you are interested in having John West as a speaker at your event or conference, you can preview excerpts from one of his recent talks on this website by going to the Media/Calendar page and clicking on the Author Appearances button.

The Book

I don’t know what my booze bill was for that time, but I’m sure it was big. I had a good reason, though: I had to kill my parents. They asked me to. Actually, they asked me to help them with their suicides, and I did. And if that doesn’t justify throwing back an extra glass or three of Jameson’s on the rocks, then I don’t know what does.

My father was Louis Jolyon “Jolly” West, MD, a world-renowned psychiatrist and former chairman of the department of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, age seventy-four. My mother was Kathryn “K” West, PhD, a respected clinical psychologist at the West Los Angeles (Brentwood) Veterans Administration Hospital, age seventy-five.

Jolly and K were wonderful people–brilliant, academic medical professionals, highly cultured, and well-rounded. Neither was at all religious, but both had deep insight into the human condition. They knew what was what. And they knew what they wanted.

So when they made their wishes clear to me, I wasn’t about to argue. I respected my father and mother, and I loved them. And I believe, as they did, in freedom of choice, the right to personal privacy and self-determination–which includes reproductive choice (as the law now recognizes, although it didn’t used to), the right to refuse medical treatment (as the law now recognizes, although it didn’t used to), and the right to choose death with dignity (as the law does not recognize–not yet–although a few states are getting close).

My father’s desire to end his life did not shock me, especially since his newly discovered cancer–a particularly vicious type–was literally eating him up and would take him from playing tennis to lying dead in just five months. Should Jolly have been forced to endure a few more days or weeks of agony just to satisfy some people’s notions that death should be “natural”?

And what about my mother? K had mid stage Alzheimer’s disease, plus osteoporosis and emphysema. Should she have been forced to deteriorate into a walking vegetable, soiling herself, wandering into traffic, hunched over like a crab, and coughing up blood, just because some people say that’s how it’s always been and always should be?

Jolly and K said no. And I agreed.

The Last Goodnights is being included in the course curricula at a growing number of educational institutions, from U.C.L.A.’s “Mind, Medicine, and Culture” to St. Edward’s University’s “Human Growth and Development” to Ashford University’s “Legal and Ethical Issues for Health Professionals.” Additionally, John West has been an invited lecturer at the University of Southern California’s School of Gerontology as well as the Brentwood and Sepulveda V.A. Hospitals’ Psychiatry Grand Rounds.

Book Clubs: John West has appeared at various book club discussions across the country, usually via speakerphone but sometimes in person when scheduling allows. Please feel free to contact him regarding participating in your book club’s discussion of The Last Goodnights.

John West

John West has been the managing partner and owner of two law firms, practiced civil rights and employment law, and worked as a public defender. He also has owned and operated several other small businesses and consulting entities, worked in the real estate industry, the arts and entertainment industry, various sales and service industries, and the philanthropic realm.

He’s been around the block a few times. And he really knows his way around one particular block . . . that very few people will admit to even having visited.

The Organization

The Last Goodnights Organization is dedicated to helping people who face the most difficult end-of-life issues.

That is why John West wrote his book, and why he works to “spread the word” about the importance of these issues via public speaking appearances, lectures at colleges and hospitals, on news programs and through other media. To do this effectively requires a certain amount of financial support, which The Last Goodnights Organization strives to provide.

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