Beyond the Good Death: The Anthropology of Modern Dying

Beyond the Good Death: The Anthropology of Modern Dying

by James W. Green

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Overview

In November 1998, millions of television viewers watched as Thomas Youk died. Suffering from the late stages of Lou Gehrig's disease, Youk had called upon infamous Michigan pathologist Dr. Jack Kevorkian to help end his life on his own terms. After delivering the videotape to 60 Minutes, Kevorkian was arrested and convicted of manslaughter, despite the fact that Youk's family firmly believed that the ending of his life qualified as a good death.

Death is political, as the controversies surrounding Jack Kevorkian and, more recently, Terri Schiavo have shown. While death is a natural event, modern end-of-life experiences are shaped by new medical, demographic, and cultural trends. People who are dying are kept alive, sometimes against their will or the will of their family, with powerful medications, machines, and "heroic measures." Current research on end-of-life issues is substantial, involving many fields. Beyond the Good Death takes an anthropological approach, examining the changes in our concept of death over the last several decades. As author James W. Green determines, the attitudes of today's baby boomers differ greatly from those of their parents and grandparents, who spoke politely and in hushed voices of those who had "passed away." Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in the 1960s, gave the public a new language for speaking openly about death with her "five steps of dying." If we talked more about death, she emphasized, it would become less fearful for everyone.

The term "good death" reentered the public consciousness as narratives of AIDS, cancer, and other chronic diseases were featured on talk shows and in popular books such as the best-selling Tuesdays with Morrie. Green looks at a number of contemporary secular American death practices that are still informed by an ancient religious ethos. Most important, Beyond the Good Death provides an interpretation of the ways in which Americans react when death is at hand for themselves or for those they care about.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812221985
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
Publication date: 02/29/2012
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 919,942
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

James W. Green teaches anthropology at the University of Washington in Seattle and is author of Cultural Awareness in the Human Services: A Multi-Ethnic Approach.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Getting Dead
Chapter Two: Exit Strategies
Chapter Three: The Body as Relic
Chapter Four: Soulscapes
Chapter Five: Passing It On
Chapter Six: In Our Hearts Forever
Chapter Seven: The Future of Death

Notes
Bibliography
Index
Acknowledgments

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