This essay explores how strategies integral to inquiry in the humanities provide insights into developing an interdisciplinary approach to studies of death and dying that will be relevant to medical practice as well as to humanistic study. The author asks how we can produce new modes of knowledge in an area where “knowing” is highly problematized and argues that while a putative field of death and dying studies must include a range of disciplinary approaches it must (...) also account for lived, subjective experience and the ways that we, as individuals and as a culture, create meaning. (shrink)
Better public health and medicine have given us a new kind of death and with it, a new fear – the fear that death will come too late and take too long. The generation that is dying now is largely unprepared for this new kind of death, for traditionally, people have always tried to avoid or postpone death. But if we are to avoid a bad death – too slow and too late – many (...) of us with access to 21st century medicine will need to develop a very new art, the art of going to meet death. We will need the wisdom to discern when our lives are over, sometimes even without medical indicators such as a terminal or chronic illness. Then we will need the skill to wrap things up, both within ourselves and with our loved ones, and finally, the courage, decisiveness and resolution to take steps to end our lives. (shrink)
Rising numbers of ageing prisoners and goals on implementing equivalent health care in prison raise issues surrounding end-of-life care for prisoners. The paucity of research on this topic in Europe means that the needs of older prisoners contemplating death in prison have not been established. To investigate elderly prisoners’ attitudes towards death and dying, 35 qualitative interviews with inmates aged 51 to 71 years were conducted in 12 Swiss prisons. About half of the prisoners reported having thought (...) about dying in prison, with some mentioning it in relation with suicidal thoughts and others to disease and old age. Themes identified during data analysis included general thoughts about death and dying, accounts of other prisoners’ deaths, availability of end-of-life services, contact with social relations, and wishes to die outside of prison. Study findings are discussed using Allmark’s concept of “death without indignities,” bringing forth two ethical issues: fostering autonomy and removing barriers. Attributing the identified themes to these two ethical actions clarifies the current needs of ageing prisoners in Switzerland and could be a first step towards the implementation of end-of-life services in correctional systems. (shrink)
This article presents the first results of a study of the decisions made by health professionals in South Australia concerning the management of death, dying, and euthanasia, and focuses on the findings concerning the attitudes and practices of medical practitioners. Mail-back, self-administered questionnaires were posted in August 1991 to a ten per cent sample of 494 medical practitioners in South Australia randomly selected from the list published by the Medical Board of South Australia. A total response rate of (...) 68 per cent was obtained, 60 per cent of which (298) were usable returns. It was found that forty-seven per cent had received requests from patients to hasten their deaths. Nineteen per cent had taken active steps which had brought about the death of a patient. Sixty-eight per cent thought that guidelines for withholding and withdrawal of treatment should be established. Forty-five per cent were in favour of legalisation of active euthanasia under certain circumstances. (shrink)
Background The globalization of medical science carries for doctors worldwide a correlative duty to deepen their understanding of patients' cultural contexts and religious backgrounds, in order to satisfy each as a unique individual. To become better informed, practitioners may turn to MedLine, but it is unclear whether the information found there is an accurate representation of culture and religion. To test MedLine's representation of this field, we chose the topic of death and dying in the three major monotheistic (...) religions. Methods We searched MedLine using PubMed in order to retrieve and thematically analyze full-length scholarly journal papers or case reports dealing with religious traditions and end-of-life care. Our search consisted of a string of words that included the most common denominations of the three religions, the standard heading terms used by the National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature (NRCBL), and the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) used by the National Library of Medicine. Eligible articles were limited to English-language papers with an abstract. Results We found that while a bibliographic search in MedLine on this topic produced instant results and some valuable literature, the aggregate reflected a selection bias. American writers were over-represented given the global prevalence of these religious traditions. Denominationally affiliated authors predominated in representing the Christian traditions. The Islamic tradition was under-represented. Conclusion MedLine's capability to identify the most current, reliable and accurate information about purely scientific topics should not be assumed to be the same case when considering the interface of religion, culture and end-of-life care. (shrink)
The word ‘dignity’ is a staple of contemporary American medical ethics, where it often follows the words ‘death with’. People unfamiliar with this usage might expect it to apply to one’s manner of dying—for example, a stately exit involving ceremonial farewells. Instead, conventional usage generally holds that “death with dignity” ends or prevents life without dignity, by which is meant life marked not by buffoonery, but by illness and disability. Popular examples of dignity-depleters include dementia, incontinence, and (...) being “dependent on machines”—provided the machines are respirators rather than furnaces, refrigerators, and computers. (shrink)
This book challenges fundamental doctrines of established medical ethics. It is argued that the routine practice of stopping life support technology causes the death of patients and that donors of vital organs (hearts, liver, lungs, and both kidneys) are not really dead at the time that their organs are removed for life-saving transplantation. Although these practices are ethically legitimate, they are not compatible with traditional medical ethics: they conflict with the norms that doctors must not intentionally cause the (...) class='Hi'>death of their patients and that vital organs can be obtained only from dead donors. The aim of this book is to undertake an ethical examination that aims to honestly face the reality of medical practices at the end of life. This involves exposing the misconception that stopping life support merely allows patients to die from their medical conditions, that there is an ethical bright line separating withdrawal of life support from active euthanasia, and that determination of death of hospitalized patients prior to vital organ donation is consistent with the established biological conception of death. A novel ethical justification is required for procuring vital organs from still-living donors. It is contended that in the context of plans to withdraw life support, donors of vital organs are not harmed or wronged by organ procurement prior to death, provided that valid consent is obtained for stopping treatment and organ donation. In view of serious practical difficulties in facing the truth regarding organ donation, an alternative pragmatic account is developed for justifying current practices that relies on the concept of transparent legal fictions. In sum, it is the thesis of this book that to preserve the legitimacy of end-of-life practices, we need to reconstruct medical ethics. (shrink)
Refusal of organ donation is common, and becoming more frequent. In Australia refusal by families occurred in 56% of cases in 1995 in New South Wales, and had risen to 82% in 1999, becoming the most important determinant of the country's very low organ donation rate .Leading causes of refusal, identified in many studies, include the lack of understanding by families of brain death and its implications, and subsequent reluctance to relegate the body to purely instrumental status. It is (...) an interesting paradox that surveys of the public continue to show considerable support for organ donation programmes—in theory we will, in practice we won't .In this paper we propose that the Australian community may, for good reason, distrust the concept of and criteria for “whole brain death”, and the equation of this new concept with death of the human being. We suggest that irreversible loss of circulation should be reinstated as the major defining characteristic of death, but that brain-dead, heart-beating entities remain suitable organ donors despite being alive by this criterion. This presents a major challenge to the “dead donor rule”, and would require review of current transplantation legislation. Brain dead entities are suitable donors because of irreversible loss of personhood, accurately and robustly defined by the current brain stem criteria."Even the dead are not terminally ill any more.". (shrink)
This article seeks to present for the first time a more systematic account of Edith Stein’s views on death and dying. First, I will argue that death does not necessarily lead us to an understanding of our earthly existence as aevum, that is, an experience of time between eternity and finite temporality. We always bear the mark of our finitude, including our finite temporality, even when we exist within the eternal mind of God. To claim otherwise, is (...) to make identical our eternity with God’s eternity, thereby undermining the traditional Scholastic argument, which Stein holds, that there is no real relation between the being (and, therefore, (a)temporality) of God and the being of human persons. Second, I will argue that Stein excludes the category of potentiality from her discussion of death as a relation between the fullness or actuality of being and nothingness. In fact, death is more a relation between possibility/potentiality and nothingness than a relation between actual fullness and nothingness. What Stein describes as fullness ought to be read as potential. (shrink)
This paper argues that the world-wide debate about physician assisted dying is missing a golden opportunity to focus on the orchestration of the end of life. Such a process consists of far more than adequate pain control and is a skill which, like all other skills, needs to be learned and taught. The debate offers an opportunity to press for the teaching of this skill. Beyond this, the desire to assure that all can have access to palliative care makes (...) sense only within the embrace of a universal health-care system and the desire that all can have a death with dignity is meaningful only within the embrace of a life with dignity. (shrink)
Offers over forty stories about individuals who have dealt with the loss of a loved one, and advice on handling situations surrounding death and dying such as talking with children about grief, suicide, and funeral arrangements.
The Nothing That Is and the Nothing That Is Not is the final volume in a trilogy on interpretations of otherness in the postmodern era. The first two volumes are A Do-It-Yourself Dystopia: The Americanization of Big Brother and Leopards in the Temple: Selected Essays 1990-2000.
No law in any jurisdiction that permits physician assisted dying offers individuals a medically assisted death without the need to comply with certain criteria. The Netherlands is no exception. There is evidence to suggest that physicians are averse to providing an assisted death even when the Dutch ‘due care criteria’ have been met and the unbearable pain and suffering requirement is especially difficult to satisfy. Some individuals with an enduring desire to die who do not meet the (...) ‘due care’ criteria under the Dutch legislation turn to other means of achieving a self-appointed death. This paper explores two alternative methods of securing a self-determined death (an assisted death involving lay assistors or a self-hastened death by stopping eating and drinking), and raises the question of how far the law should recognise autonomy in the context of physician assisted death. (shrink)
In this paper, I describe some current developments in death and dying literature—certainty vs. context; death as process vs. death as event; acceptance vs. denial; and the present moment vs. the long run. I then show how the work of James and Dewey can be beneficially applied to these topics. In this way, I hope to be true to the spirit of James and Dewey, following in their “wake,” while extending their insights to a new topic, (...) namely death.Benjamin Franklin once said: “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” He was at least half wrong. There is now no complete agreement as to when life begins or when it ends, nor on who should decide this—medicine, biology, the law, or each human being herself... (shrink)
Modern scripts for dying in hospice or by euthanasia are inapplicable to the dwindling of long old age, often experienced as social ‘death before death’. The article critiques the rhetoric of ‘death before death’ used of Alzheimer’s patients, and draws attention to an alternative valuation of death of self in the Christian tradition.
The essay is intended to shed light on the back-stage of contemporary debates about death and the dying, and more specifically on newer trends that emphasise the importance of ‘dying well’ and the moral viability of a ‘good death’. It raises the question as to whether there is a hidden conceptual link between the high medieval tradition of ars moriendi and the modern trend towards embracing (assisted) suicide as a final expression of human autonomy and suggests (...) that this link becomes visible only when death is theologically understood in a twofold way: according to its spiritual side on the one hand, and according to its physical on the other. Drawing inspiration from Bonhoeffer’s exposition of the biblical myth of the Fall and his insights into the link between thanatos and techne, the essay suggests that the compulsive fashion in which modern societies tend to shy away from any contact with the dying that is not mediated by technology or bureaucracy is owed to their refusal to acknowledge the dual character of death, as it is open to theological analysis. (shrink)
This paper examines the reactions of physicians and other health-professionals when they become involved in decisions about the death of their patients. The way people understand the condition of death has a profound influence on attitudes towards death and dying issues. Four traditional views of death are explored. The problem that physicians have in helping patients die (be it by hastening death through pain control, assisting patients in suicide or by more active means) is (...) analyzed. Physicians, in dealing with such patients, must be mindful of their own, and their patients beliefs as well as mindful of the community in which such dying takes place. They must try to reconcile these often divergent views but can neither paternalistically deny patients their rational will, hide themselves behind an appeal to the law or go against their own deeply held moral views. When such views cannot be reconciled, compassionate transfer to a more compatible physician may be necessary. (shrink)
This project was undertaken to ascertain the perceptions of a group of Taiwan’s fourth-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) students regarding death and help expected from nurses during the dying process. Within the Chinese culture, death is one of the most important life issues. However, in many Chinese societies it is difficult for people to reveal their deepest feelings to their significant others or loved ones. It was in this context that this project was developed because (...) little is known about how Taiwan’s nursing students perceive death and the dying process. Using an open-ended, self-report questionnaire, 110 senior BSN students recorded their thoughts on: (1) their fears before physical death; (2) afterlife destinations; and (3) the help they would expect from nurses when dying. The data were analyzed using a three-layer qualitative thematic analysis. The students’ reported needs during the dying process were directed towards three main goals: (1) help in reaching the ‘triple targets of individual life’; (2) help in facilitating in-depth support so that both the dying person and significant others can experience a blessed farewell; and (3) help in reaching a destination in the afterlife. The results support the belief of dying as a transition occurring when life weans itself from the mortal world and prepares for an afterlife. (shrink)
Because complex organs taken from unequivocally dead people are not suitable for transplantation, human death has been redefined so that it can be certified at some earlier stage in the dying process and thereby make viable organs available without legal problems. Redefinitions based on concepts of.