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Invitation to the Dance: Lessons from Susan Sontag’s Death, 39 HASTINGS CENTER REPORT 38 (2009)


Susan Sontag’s death was difficult: difficult for her because she fought it to a bitter end in a treatment regime that inflicted considerable physical and mental suffering on her, and difficult, too, for her son, David Rieff, as he testified in a sober and affecting memoir of his mother’s death.1 By Rieff ’s account, he was agonized by his inability or his refusal (he was never sure how to characterize his failure) to tell his mother the truth about his own evaluation of her grim prognosis, the utter futility of her desperate medical treatments at the end, and the burdens inflicted by those treatments on her and on him.

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