Book Review Archives

Life and Death Matters

By: Robert L. Baldwin, M.D., M.A.
Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn
NewSouth Books, 2009
$24.95, Hardcover

The autobiographical account of how Dr. Robert L. Baldwin came to write against capital punishment is the story of his life. His book, Life and Death Matters, is a candid look at how he, a Birmingham physician of accomplishment, discovered error in his own thinking.

Baldwin grew up in near Mobile during the Civil Rights Movement. As a young man, he was too busy studying and was too unconcerned to pay much attention to the inequalities of race. All of that changed several years into his practice of otology (treatment of the ear). He developed myasthenia gravis (MG), a neurological disorder of the muscles which eventually cost Baldwin his career. Fortunately, he had already begun other paths of interest.

One such path was Baldwin’s spiritual journey toward renouncing his pride. He became closer to God after dealing with MG and a cancer scare. Two years into his struggles, he felt blessed not only to be alive but also well enough to attempt a career change. His faith grew along with his newfound humility.

He asked God for strength to overcome what he felt was his “primary weakness, or sin, namely that of pride.” Baldwin recognized that while God had reversed his good fortunes, he replaced them with better ideals.

Baldwin expanded his charitable work of helping the poor obtain treatment for their deafness and ear diseases. He aligned himself early in his practice with the Alabama Ear Institute (AEI) and, as he collapsed his medical practice, he helped more with the AEI.

A third change was Baldwin’s desire to study political science in order to better learn about running the AEI. A course he took in management led to his pursuit of a master of arts degree in public and private management at Birmingham-Southern College. He began visiting jails and teaching the Bible to prisoners who were serving both life sentences and death penalties. He studied how the justice system discriminated against blacks in prison and how death by injection was as cruel as that of the electric chair.

Baldwin brings all of his journeys into focus toward the book’s end when he accompanies a man he befriends to the death chamber, a heartbreaking incident that the author hopes will change readers’ minds.

Baldwin says by witnessing the event, he became “energized by the strength” of his anger. March 2009

Anniston resident Sherry Kughn is the author of Heart Tree for Empty Nesters and Faith Flight for Empty Nesters. Her third book, God’s Bouquet for Empty Nesters, is due out this spring.