Life's End: Technocratic Dying in an Age of Spiritual Yearning / Edition 1

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Overview

The absence of culturally established guidelines and moral codes to preside over dying leaves patients and loved ones confused and anxious.  They frequently feel that they are inadequate participants in their own experience, often not knowing how to act or what to say. Physicians typically ignore the personal chaos experienced by patients and their families. They instead focus on technical and physical concerns. This process whereby the personal issues of dying are redefined into technical matters is not only consistent with their training and social organization of work, it serves to reshape the human experience of dying into disease focus and treatment options. This enables healthcare professionals to work each day in an environment where dying and death abound without having to deal with the emotions and social issues of dying and death. Patients and families experience deep personal and social implications of dying, whereas physicians adopt a preeminently technical approach in their patterns of care.

The theme of controlling the experience of dying through technological manipulation and through the social isolation of individuals is central to this book. This new work explores how the American value of individualism and the widespread commitment to technology have given rise to particular forms of governing the process of dying that are unique to the professional dominance of death in the hospital setting.  It focuses on how the values of technology in the broader society are applied in the framework of medicalized care of dying patients, and discusses the consequences this has for their lives. Additionally, this book analyzes how the value of individualism, so ubiquitous in the broader society, influences the treatment of dying patients and their definition of the meanings of their own dying. It shows how the dominant values of the American cultural system are institutionalized in the medical treatment of dying patients.

The explicit purpose of this book is to analyze dying and death in the cosmopolitan, modern setting. There is, however, an additional theme that is implicit in the analysis and observations. The portrait of dying, which is provided in the pages of the book, also tells us a great deal about life. It demonstrates that the foundation for the medicalization of death that piercingly shapes the life experience of dying persons and loved ones is a product of the ways of life in the broader culture.

The most important message of the dying patients whose lives and sufferings so enrich this book, was not about death. It was about life.  This book, with the landscape of modern life and death which it portrays, is devoted to understanding and honoring the lives and sufferings of all dying persons—both present and future.

Intended Audience: Death education professionals, grief counselors,

death educators, bereavement therapists, grief ministry, bereavement

groups; Professionals in: Psychology, Sociology, Medical Nursing, Social

Work, Counselors, Hospice, Clergy

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Wendell Moller, affectionately called Dr. Death by his student s at the beginning of his course on death and dying, transforms into Dr.  Life at the finish in honor of the journey into life and mortality through which he takes those enrolled in his classes. This pilgrimage is ultimately a reckoning of life choices and the joys of living. Described by his peers as “the most outstanding teacher I know” and “as being nothing short of brilliant in the classroom,” Moller seeks to impress on his students that death resurrects life as nothing else can. His ability to “touch forever their lives” led to his winning the prestigious President’s Award for Distinguished teaching at Indiana University.

Moller’s interest in medical ethics and thanatology directed him to earn a Ph.D., in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University. Currently he is a professor at Indiana University, Indianapolis. He teaches sociology in the School of Liberal Arts, where he is also chair of the Program in Medical Humanities and Health Studies. Moller is a faculty member of the Program in Medical Ethics at Indiana University School of Medicine. His resolution to making death and dying less horrendous led him to a position on faculty of the Palliative Care Program at Wished Hospital, Indiana University School of Medicine.

The book contains no figures.

The absence of culturally established guidelines and moral codes to preside over dying leaves patients and loved ones confused and anxious. They frequently feel that they are inadequate participants in their own experience, often not knowing how to act or what to say. Physicians typically ignore the personal chaos experienced by patients and their families. They instead focus on technical and physical concerns. This process whereby the personal issues of dying are redefined into technical matters is not only consistent with their training and social organization of work, it serves to reshape the human experience of dying into disease focus and treatment options. This enables healthcare professionals to work each day in an environment where dying and death abound without having to deal with the emotions and social issues of dying and death. The most important message of the dying patients whose lives and sufferings so enrich this book was not about death, but about life. This book, with the landscape of modern life and death which it portrays, is devoted to understanding and honoring the lives and sufferings of all dying persons — both present and future.

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Lisa Stepp, PhD, RN, APN, AOCN, CRNH (Private Practice)
Description: As we move into the new century, one question remains as a central theme for humanity: "What is the meaning of life?" Ironically the answer to this question may actually be found in the study of dying.
Purpose: The purpose, as stated by the editor, is to increase the awareness of healthcare professionals and society to the severe neglect and isolation of dying patients. He uses personal accounts of his client's own words to meet this objective in a poignant and compassionate way in the hope that future patients will not suffer these indignities.
Audience: While the text is obviously designed for the student and practitioner of thanatology, there are lessons to be learned here on living that relate to all human beings. The editor's experience in facilitating the dying process for numerous individuals provides him with a unique insight and perspective of this delicate topic.
Features: In the framework of death as a mirror of life's meaning, the editor attempts to provide the reader with an understanding of how we find the art of living in the art of dying. The use of personal accounts and diaries makes the text come alive. The reader recognizes that this is not just a report of patients' experiences but a story told by the patients themselves in their own words.
Assessment: Many times patients do not feel that they can truly express what they are thinking and feeling. In the safe environment provided in this study, patients were able to express ideas and emotions that are often left suppressed and ignored. Of the greatest interest in this text is the underlying theme that the meaning and accomplishments of individuals' lives can shape their death experience.
Lisa Stepp
As we move into the new century, one question remains as a central theme for humanity: "What is the meaning of life?" Ironically the answer to this question may actually be found in the study of dying. The purpose, as stated by the editor, is to increase the awareness of healthcare professionals and society to the severe neglect and isolation of dying patients. He uses personal accounts of his client's own words to meet this objective in a poignant and compassionate way in the hope that future patients will not suffer these indignities. While the text is obviously designed for the student and practitioner of thanatology, there are lessons to be learned here on living that relate to all human beings. The editor's experience in facilitating the dying process for numerous individuals provides him with a unique insight and perspective of this delicate topic. In the framework of death as a mirror of life's meaning, the editor attempts to provide the reader with an understanding of how we find the art of living in the art of dying. The use of personal accounts and diaries makes the text come alive. The reader recognizes that this is not just a report of patients' experiences but a story told by the patients themselves in their own words. Many times patients do not feel that they can truly express what they are thinking and feeling. In the safe environment provided in this study, patients were able to express ideas and emotions that are often left suppressed and ignored. Of the greatest interest in this text is the underlying theme that the meaning and accomplishments of individuals' lives can shape their death experience.
Booknews
Moller (sociology, Indiana U., Indianapolis) teaches courses in death and dying. Here he focuses on the attempt to control the experience of dying through technological manipulation and social isolation. He explains how the medicalization of death is a product of the ways of life in the broader culture. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

4 Stars! from Doody
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780895032027
  • Publisher: Baywood Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 195

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction

 

SECTION I: CORE DISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES

Chapter 1 - Aging and Social Change: Toward an Interdisciplinary

Research Agenda Stephen J. Cutler

Chapter 2 - Psychology’s Contributions to Gerontology Laura L.

Carstensen, Jeremy Graff, and Frieder Lang

Chapter 3 - A Social Psychology of the Life Cycle: Interdisciplinary

Social Policies, Perceptions, and Prospects Jeffrey Michael Clair,

William C. Yoels, and David A. Karp

Chapter 4 - Clinical and Health Services Delivery Research Richard M.

Allman, Patricia S. Baker, and Richard S. Maisiak

SECTION II: KEY SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES

Chapter 5 - Diversity As a Catalyst for Change E. Percil Stanford and

Gwendolyn E. Stanford

Chapter 6 - Intergenerational Relationships and Aging: Families,

Cohorts, and Social Change Vern Bengtson, Timothy Biblarz, Edward

Clarke, Roseann Giarrusso, Robert Roberts, Judith Richlin-Klonsky, and

Merril Silverstein

Chapter 7 - Interdisciplinary Health Care in the Twenty-First Century:

Fantasy or Fundamental? Theresa J. K. Drinka

Chapter 8 - Organizing Chronic Care: The Value of Organization Theory to Gerontology William E. Aaronson, Connie J. Evashwick, and Richard M.

Shewchuk

Chapter 9 - Nursing Homes and the Long-Term Care Market Michael A.

Morrisey and Fredric D. Wolinsky

SECTION III: PATIENT CARE CONCERNS

Chapter 10 - Perspectives on Aging: Progress and Priorities for

Age-Related Cancers Harvey Jay Cohen

Chapter 11 - Caring for Alzheimer’s Disease Patients: Issues of Verbal

Communication and Social Interaction Louis Burgio, Rebecca Allen-Burge,

Alan Stevens, Linda Davis, and Daniel Marson

Chapter 12 - The Geriatric Medical Encounter Patricia S. Baker, Jeffrey

Michael Clair, William C. Yoels, and Richard M. Allman

Chapter 13 - Treatment of Urinary Incontinence: Current Status and

Future Directions Kathryn L. Burgio, Patricia S. Goode, R. Edward

Varner, L. Keith Lloyd, Donald A. Urban, and Mary G. Umlauf

Chapter 14 - Mobility Impairment and Its Consequences in the Elderly

Cynthia Owsley, Richard M. Allman, Marilyn Gossman, Sherron Kell,

Richard V. Sims, and Patricia S. Baker

Chapter 15 - Closing Comments: Barriers To and Potential For an

Interdisciplinary Research Agenda in Aging Richard M. Allman and Jeffrey

M. Clair

Contributors

Index

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