Fragile Lives: Death, Dying, and Care

Fragile Lives: Death, Dying, and Care

Fragile Lives: Death, Dying, and Care

Fragile Lives: Death, Dying, and Care

Synopsis

Death is inevitable, yet in the West we often behave as if we will live forever. So when we meet someone who is dying, their fragility is a sharp and often unwelcome reminder of our own mortality. How does this affect the way in which individuals, health professionals and social institutions deal with death and dying?

Beverley McNamara looks at death from a sociological perspective. Arguing that despite popular belief death does not make us equal, she shows that dying is a chaotic and uncertain process. Yet despite the disorderly manner in which people die, McNamara demonstrates that social and cultural patterns can be found in the way we approach dying, and the care of terminally ill people. She examines the medicalisation of care for the dying, attitudes of carers and the notion of the 'good death'. She also explores the euthanasia debate and the fear of cancer.

Drawing on wide-ranging qualitative reserach, Fragile Lives is a sensitive analysis of the social issues surrounding death. It is suitable for use as a student text on medical, nursing, social work, counselling, gerontology and sociology courses.

Excerpt

The initiative for this book came out of the many conversations I have had with my friend and mentor Charles Waddell. Charles has never turned away from researching and writing about sensitive and emotive topics, like dying and death, and from him I have learned to face these topics with courage and good humour. Allan Kellehear's important and continuing work on Australian approaches to dying and death has also been a source of inspiration and example for my own work. As I argue in this book, learning about how people die requires us to examine our own inadequacies and frailties. The fragile lives I write about in the book are therefore not just those of terminally ill patients, they are also the fragile lives we all inherit through birth. In exploring this fragility, I have drawn upon the stories provided by many terminally ill people, their families and the health professionals who cared for them in their last days and months. With their kind permission, I have changed their names and located their individual stories within the social and cultural context of contemporary Western society. While I use Australian case studies, I believe these are reflective of broader trends in multicultural Western societies. The euthanasia debate and the development of palliative care are issues of global importance, and public debate surrounding dying and death is informed by an increasingly globalised media. A large part of this book is devoted to a discussion of the care of terminally ill people, but I have sought, above all, to emphasise the experience of . . .

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