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Sherwin Nuland, a surgeon and medical ethicist who helped demystify death with his landmark 1994 book How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter, has died at age 83.

His death Monday from prostate cancer, at his home in Hamden, Conn., was confirmed by his daughter, the Associated Press reports.

Nuland wrote several books, but the one that made him famous and won him a National Book Award was the one that detailed exactly what happens to our bodies when we die from cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's and other common causes.

Death isn't pretty and it isn't particularly dignified, he wrote. But only by a frank discussion of the very details of dying can we best deal with the details that frighten us most.

Nuland, who taught surgery and medical history at Yale University, was a leading voice for end-of-life planning and against the over-medicalization of death.

Too many people, he wrote, die in hospitals surrounded by the beeping and squealing monitors, the hissing of respirators and pistoned mattresses, the flashing multicolored electronic signals ...

Nuland had said he was not ready for his own death, daughter Amelia Nuland said Tuesday: He told me, 'I'm not scared of dying, but I've built such a beautiful life, and I'm not ready to leave it.'

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