Death Is That Man Taking Names: Intersections of American Medicine, Law, and Culture / Edition 1

Death Is That Man Taking Names: Intersections of American Medicine, Law, and Culture / Edition 1

by Robert A. Burt
ISBN-10:
0520243242
ISBN-13:
9780520243248
Pub. Date:
09/06/2004
Publisher:
University of California Press
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Overview

Death Is That Man Taking Names: Intersections of American Medicine, Law, and Culture / Edition 1


The American culture of death changed radically in the 1970s. For terminal illnesses, hidden decisions by physicians were rejected in favor of rational self-control by patients asserting their "right to die"—initially by refusing medical treatment and more recently by physician-assisted suicide. This new claim rested on two seemingly irrefutable propositions: first, that death can be a positive good for individuals whose suffering has become intolerable; and second, that death is an inevitable and therefore morally neutral biological event. Death Is That Man Taking Names suggests, however, that a contrary attitude persists in our culture—that death is inherently evil, not just in practical but also in moral terms. The new ethos of rational self-control cannot refute but can only unsuccessfully try to suppress this contrary attitude. The inevitable failure of this suppressive effort provokes ambivalence and clouds rational judgment in many people's minds and paradoxically leads to inflictions of terrible suffering on terminally ill people.

Judicial reforms in the 1970s of abortion and capital punishment were driven by similarly high valuations of rationality and public decision-making—rejecting physician control over abortion in favor of individual self-control by pregnant women and subjecting unsupervised jury decisions for capital punishment to supposed rationally guided supervision by judges. These reforms also attempt to suppress persistently ambivalent attitudes toward death, and are therefore prone to inflicting unjustified suffering on pregnant women and death-sentenced prisoners.

In this profound and subtle account of psychological and social forces underlying American cultural attitudes toward death, Robert A. Burt maintains that unacknowledged ambivalence is likely to undermine the beneficent goals of post-1970s reforms and harm the very people these changes were intended to help.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520243248
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 09/06/2004
Series: California/Milbank Books on Health and the Public Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)

Table of Contents

Forewordix
Acknowledgmentsxi
1.Good Death1
2.Hidden Death27
3.Death at War47
4.Judges and Death67
5.Doctors and Death87
6.Choosing Death106
7.The Death Penalty123
8.All the Days of My Life157
Notes187
Index219

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