Accepted paper:

The “good” dying

Authors:

Margaret Souza (SUNY/Exmpire State College)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation will describe the impact of Enlightenment ideas on the dying process as it occurs in the 21st century in the United States. Tracing the historic precedents that underpin the present ideology of dying on “our own terms” it examines how Enlightenment provides a foundational way of understanding the ways in which scientific knowledge informs medical practitioner to respond to those who are dying.

Paper long abstract:

The Age of Enlightenment provided a different way in which to experience the world. Moving from a belief in religion and social institutions to direct human behavior it turned to science and rationality as ways in which to understand and control the world. This presentation will embed the impact of this view on the dying process as it occurs in the 21st century in the United States. Tracing the historic precedents that underpin the present ideology of dying on “our own terms” it examines how Enlightenment provides a foundational way of understanding the ways in which scientific knowledge informs medical practitioner to respond to those who are dying either in a formidable attempt to ward off death or in an approach that identifies a person as dying and provides low tech medical interventions in a response that these practitioners present as a “good death.” In particular this paper provides a focus upon palliative care practitioners that engage in an ideology of a “good” and “natural” death. These terms obfuscate the conditions that provide this type of death and the prescription for how it should occur. In practice pain control is paramount in this effort to provide a dying process that eliminates pain and suffering and is suppose to provide a comfortable, peaceful, and harmonious moment for all involved. Although the experience of those who are personally involved in the process is often quite emotionally painful and they may even find this approach troubling.

panel P69
Designing death: fashioning ends of life and beyond