Margaret Pabst Battin, an expert in bioethics and right-to-die issues, comes to grips with the same questions in her own life, when her husband Brooke Hopkins is in a bicycling accident that leaves him quadriplegic:

“By the time Peggy arrived and saw her husband ensnared in the life-sustaining machinery he hoped to avoid, decisions about intervention already had been made. It was Nov. 14, 2008, late afternoon. She didn’t know yet that Brooke would end up a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down.

“Suffering, suicide, euthanasia, a dignified death — these were subjects she had thought and written about for years, and now, suddenly, they turned unbearably personal. Alongside her physically ravaged husband, she would watch lofty ideas be trumped by reality — and would discover just how messy, raw and muddled the end of life can be.”