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Dying in the Twenty-First Century: Toward a…
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Dying in the Twenty-First Century: Toward a New Ethical Framework for the…

by Lydia Dugdale

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Best for: Philosophers who will have a chance to discuss the contents.

In a nutshell: Bioethicist and doctor compiles essays addressing how we die and if there is a way to revive the art of dying well.

Line that sticks with me: “We can’t talk about the art of dying without first accepting that we will die.” (p 174)

Why I chose it: A lot of folks who are dear to people who are dear to me have died over these past 18 months, so I decided to get philosophical on it and picked this out.

Review: This collection of essays seeks to answer the question of what role bioethics has in helping people ‘die well.’ This doesn’t mean people dying in a way that is convenient for others, but in a way that allows someone to make some sense of peace with the reality of their death and the life they have lived.

Some of the essays look at how death has been handled in the past, with ceremony and ritual. We still see some of that today, especially after the fact, with certain religious funeral services. But how much of what death means today involves things other than ‘extraordinary measures’ in a hospital room? One of the essays explores the concept of hospice and palliative care, examining whether the way it is practiced now allows people to be as present as they would like to be as they experience the end of their life.

Other topics explored are how far we should be going to extend lives. Just because a life can be extended, should it be? One author specifically argues that we shouldn’t require people to live beyond what they could have expected before medical technology took off in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s interesting to contemplate for sure.

One essay that the editor chose to include frustrated me to no end, as it took the position that the Catholic hospitals and health care practices are the best for compassionate care while examining the issue of end-of-life-care. I live in a state where many private hospitals are being purchased by Catholic ones, and these facilities have been shown to repeatedly cross the line when it comes to making the ‘death with dignity’ options known to their patients, not to mention the horror stories of women denied proper reproductive health care because abortion. I fully recognize the very important role that religion plays in death for so many people, so I’m not suggesting that the Catholic piece is what made this a bad essay; it was jut so ironically ignorant that I remain baffled at its inclusion in an otherwise fin collection.

If you are interested in this topic, I think this is a fine book to read. However, I would urge you to find a fellow reader so that you have someone to talk about each essay with. Some works can be fully absorbed and process internally (although you might want to tell the world about it, you don’t need to in order to really understand it); this book requires some internal and external reflection to really get the most from it. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 8, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 026202912X, Hardcover)

Most of us are generally ill-equipped for dying. Today, we neither see death nor prepare for it. But this has not always been the case. In the early fifteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church published the Ars moriendi texts, which established prayers and practices for an art of dying. In the twenty-first century, physicians rely on procedures and protocols for the efficient management of hospitalized patients. How can we recapture an art of dying that can facilitate our dying well? In this book, physicians, philosophers, and theologians attempt to articulate a bioethical framework for dying well in a secularized, diverse society.

Contributors discuss such topics as the acceptance of human finitude; the role of hospice and palliative medicine; spiritual preparation for death; and the relationship between community, and individual autonomy. They also consider special cases, including children, elderly patients with dementia, and death in the early years of the AIDS epidemic, when doctors could do little more than accompany their patients in humble solidarity.

These chapters make the case for a robust bioethics -- one that could foster both the contemplation of finitude and the cultivation of community that would be necessary for a contemporary art of dying well.

ContributorsJeffrey P. Bishop, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Daniel Callahan, Farr A. Curlin, Lydia S. Dugdale, Michelle Harrington, John Lantos, Stephen R. Latham, M. Therese Lysaught, Autumn Alcott Ridenour, Peter A. Selwyn, Daniel Sulmasy

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 31 Aug 2015 05:43:44 -0400)

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