Introduction to Social Analysis Week 7 - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


Title: Introduction to Social Analysis Week 7


1
Introduction to Social Analysis Week 7
  • Studying Bodies and Dying

2
How to study bodies?
  • In what sense and in what way is the body a
    cultural construction or merely a biological
    mechanism?
  • How are society and culture are inscribed on
    bodies - gendered and aged bodies?
  • The limits of social constructionism - death and
    dying as cultural products.

3
In what sense and in what way is the body a
cultural construction or merely a biological
mechanism?
  • All societies embellish the body with clothes,
    ornament and decoration the way you look
    conveys a message about who you are.
  • Giddens suggests - Our bodies are deeply
    affected by our social experiences, as well as by
    the norms and values of the groups to which we
    belong.
  • Social change and the body
  • Science and Technology
  • Consumerism

4
Consider body shape
  • Height, genetic and social component. The average
    height in US /UK gone up systematically for a
    century. Nutritional change
  • Body mass, rise in obesity, rise in eating
    disorders (anorexia, bulimia)
  • Aesthetic considerations, fashionable or
    desirable body
  • Manipulation of body shape through surgery,
    exercise.

5
Body shape illustrations
  • http//www.ifbb.com/halloffame/1999/CoryEverson2.j
    pg
  • http//www.bodybuildingcompetition.com/bodcover.jp
    g

6
  • http//techcenter.davidson.k12.nc.us/spring5/godde
    ss2/earthmom.jpg

7
(No Transcript)
8
Anorexia, bulimia, obesity
9
Reality of social constructions
  • It is a false distinction to contrast social
    construction as merely the products of a cultural
    imagination as opposed to scientific facts which
    represent the truth about nature.
  • There are more fundamental epistemological issues
    at stake about how it is possible to have
    knowledge of nature and it is clearly not
    possible to have a knowledge tradition which
    stands outside of society. Thus social
    constructions are real in at least two senses.
  • There is one sense which is pithily put by Thomas
    that if men define situations as real, they are
    real in their consequences (Thomas and Thomas
    1928572).
  • There is also a further sense in which natural
    phenomena are social constructions as they cannot
    be communicated, discussed and understood without
    a social basis of cultural concepts held in
    common. It may be that the natural world cannot
    even be thought about without the social
    precursor of language.
  • Cultural concepts and language with which
    knowledge is expressed are produced in historical
    and continuous processes in which the social and
    the natural environment are critical components.
    These resources for understanding the world are
    not independent of the social and natural
    environment. The social environment includes
    beliefs about reality, and the natural
    environment regularly forces itself into our
    lives in unanticipated ways. If an inexplicable
    or unforeseen natural event is manifest then, if
    it is too novel to fit the existing cultural
    schema, new concepts and language are developed
    to cope with it. Science of course does this
    routinely all the time.

10
How society and culture are inscribed on bodies -
gendered and aged bodies?
  • Reading
  • Fraser, M. and Greco, M. 2005 The Body A reader.
    London Routledge. Introduction. 301.2 Fra
  • An introduction to the field providing an
    explanation of why it has become some significant
    within Sociology and the intellectual origins of
    the ideas.

11
(No Transcript)
12
The limits of social constructionism - death and
ageing as cultural products.
  • social constructionist approaches to the study of
    old age reveals that ageing not simply a matter
    of biological determinism, there are important
    social processes independent of any physiological
    changes as the body ages.
  • But what are the limits to social
    constructionism? Surely death and the frailties
    of the fourth age are not social constructions?
  • Cross cultural anthropology of ageing enables us
    to see that different cultures approach ageing
    and death in very different ways. There are many
    myths and stories told, and rituals re-enacted
    through which through notions of resurrection,
    transformation, re-incarnation and others at some
    level defeat death. But every one dies.
  • Similarly, despite the ubiquity of nostrums about
    delaying ageing from green tea to exercise
    regimes, experience tells us that everyone ages.
  • Is the natural world, and in particular the human
    body a procrustean bed on which social
    constructionism must lie?

13
Death contrasts with life. Who is alive and who
is dead and how do we know? This boundary is
highly contested and fraught with moral dilemmas.
  • Lock M (1996) Death in technological time
    Locating the end of meaningful life Medical
    Anthropology Quarterly 10 (4) 575-600 DEC 1996
  • Lock conducted cross cultural studies on the
    changing medical definitions of death looking at
    USA and Japan.
  • The medical definition of death has shifted in
    recent history contemporary medical protocols
    for establishing death tend to use a concept of
    brain death. This in the US co-incides with the
    development of transplant technology and the
    electro-encephalograph.
  • Lock argues that the Japanese social view of
    death did not accept this definition the first
    Japanese heart transplant surgeon was charged
    with murder.
  • For us death has ceased to be a natural event.
    If people die of something it must be something
    that science can, at least potentially,
    understand and control
  • There are a number of social constructionist
    accounts of death classically Glaser and Straus
    (1965), and Sudnow (1967) plus more recent
    studies of death as practiced in hospital
    intensive care units (Timmermans, 1998 Seymour,
    2000).

14
Death and old age are conceptually related
  • Mortality comes with sexual reproduction, simple
    single cell creatures simply divide. For higher
    animals old age takes its place in developmental
    cycles alongside conception, birth and maturity.
    Thus of humans death is the boundary marker for
    the cessation of old age and important part of
    its meaning.
  • The medical definition of death is clearly a
    social construction and has been subject to
    cultural and technical change. We can ask, who,
    within what frame of reference, and for what
    purpose, is death being defined?
  • Thus cultural variations in the precise time and
    mode in which old age is concluded, can be
    studied and the significance for old age drawn
    out.

15
Social construction of old age
  • In understanding the frameworks of meaning which
    make up cultures it is important to study the
    transitions - the practices, symbols and rituals
    - which mark inclusion in and removal from social
    categories, including life stages.
  • Just as in the modern West the transition out of
    childhood associated with sexual maturity and
    legal and moral responsibility marks childhood as
    a period of innocence think of the symbols
    associated with the key of the door coming of
    age rituals, so the meaning attributed to death
    marks old age with distinctive characteristics.
    There are various models of the life course, but
    they all end in old age.
  • Social constructionist approaches to old age have
    concentrated on the transition to old age, and
    examined the markers and social processes by
    which old age is distinguished from middle age.
    Historical work has identified the ways in which
    the establishment of retirement as an institution
    is linked with the idea of old age as a post-work
    phase of life and set chronological markers at
    age 60 or 65.

16
  • Old age has always ended in death but death has
    not in the past been the exclusive domain of the
    old. Demographic changes have meant that old age
    has become more and more associated with death.
  • As people live their full span with more and
    more certainty, and no longer live with death as
    an immediate and imminent possibility in the way
    that our ancestors did, old age and death become
    culturally linked in new ways.
  • We may still die by act of God that is accident
    of some kind or at the hands of our fellow man
    or through disease or illness before we are
    thought to be old but this is increasingly
    unlikely. caveat about war / global catastrophe
    cf risk society

17
Modern western societies organise their response
to old age around the concepts of science and
medicine.
  • The dominance of Western scientific medicine
    transforms old age from natural event to a
    disease. Old age is no longer experienced from a
    religious perspective - as a divinely ordained
    path through life. Successful old age is not seen
    as it was in the 18th and 19th century as the
    outcome come of a moral life but rather as the
    absence of disease.
  • Professional knowledge and expertise with to
    explain and control the status of old age moved
    from pastor and priest to doctor and
    geriatrician. Old Age became an object of
    scientific and rational knowledge controlled by
    experts. It cannot be a subjective experience
    you are not only old as you feel when there is
    a scientifically trained expert waiting to tell
    you basis of your feelings, how false is your
    optimism, your probabilities of survival, and
    which chemical will make it all better.
  • Step by step doctors and medical practitioners
    monopolised the treatment of disease within that
    scientific knowledge frame and gave them
    unrivalled social esteem and professional power -
    literally the power of life and death.
  • Old age then ceases to be a social position and
    status within society, it becomes primarily a
    process of physical decline because that is what
    can be scientifically studied and to which we
    believe science will find solutions.
  • In the modern world, embedded in the belief in
    progressive science is the implication that it
    will provide the solution for death. Scientists
    claim to have the techniques for increasing
    longevity, if not exactly now, at least the
    potential for the future. Scientific medicine
    acts as if it should have and eventually will
    find the cure for death. For the medical
    technician every death represents a failure.

18
Studies
  • Sudnow, David (1967) Passing On The Social
    Organization of Dying. London Prentice-Hall
    International.
  • US study of death in hospitals. Coined the term
    social death. Demonstrated that people died
    social before they were physical dead, and
    similarly could be physically dead but socially
    alive.
  • Also demonstrated that the social stratification
    in life also stratified death.

19
Studies
  • Timmermans, Stefan 1998 Social Death as
    Self-fulfilling Prophecy David Sundows Passing
    On Revisited. The Sociological Quarterly 39(3)
    pp.453-472.
  • An American study by Timmermans takes Sudnow's
    description of how the presumed social value of
    patients affected the performance of hospital
    staff in attempts to revive them.
  • Seymour, Jane Elizabeth (2000) Negotiating
    natural death in intensive care. Social Science
    Medicine 21(8)1241-1252.
  • Seymour (2000) explains how medical staff in
    intensive care settings have to deal with the
    social expectations of scientific infallibility.

20
What kind of life is worth living
  • Since that 1960s study health care has undergone
    dramatic changes and Timmermans examines whether
    the social rationing described by Sudnow is still
    prevalent. The study was based on observation of
    112 resuscitative efforts and interviews with
    forty-two health care workers. Timmermanss
    pessimistic conclusion is that the recent changes
    in the health care system did not weaken but
    instead fostered social inequality in death and
    dying. He argues, firstly that the cultural
    evaluation of old age adversely affects the way
    older people get treated in a medical context and
    secondly that the domination of medical knowledge
    limits the possibility of a good death.
  • With respect to the first issue, that of cultural
    evaluation of the old, Timmermans links older
    people with the disabled and says -
  • Unfortunately, the attitudes of the emergency
    staff reflect and perpetuate those of a society
    generally not equipped culturally or structurally
    to accept the elderly or people with disabilities
    as people whose lives are valued and valuable
    (Mulkay and Ernst 1991)... The staff has
    internalized beliefs about the presumed low worth
    of elderly and disabled people to the extent that
    more the 80 percent would rather be dead than
    live with a severe neurological disability. As
    gatekeepers between life and death, they have the
    opportunity to execute explicitly the pervasive
    but more subtle moral code of the wider society.
    ...medical interventions such as genetic
    counselling, euthanasia and resuscitative efforts
    represent the sites of contention in the
    disability and elderly rights movements (Fine and
    Asch 1988, Schneider 1993).

21
beyond the help of science.
  • In terms of the second point, Timmermanss
    studies lead him to conclude that the
    medicalisation of death creates a number of
    serious problems, including precluding an
    examination of the possibilities of other ways to
    die and to bring old age to a close. Aggressive
    attempts at resuscitation in emergency
    departments and relationships with the patients
    relatives are structured around a belief in the
    technical omnipotence of medicine. It is
    necessary to follow procedures that are intrusive
    and unnecessary in order to demonstrate
    officially that the patient was beyond the help
    of science.
  • the prolonged resuscitation of anyone
    including irreversibly dead people- in our
    emergency systems perpetuates a far-reaching
    medicalization of the dying process (Conrad
    1992). Deceased people are presented more as not
    resuscitated than as having died a sudden,
    natural death. The resuscitative motions render
    death literally invisible (Star 1991) the
    patient and staff are in the resuscitation room
    while relatives and friends wait in a counselling
    room. The irony of the resuscitative set-up is
    that nobody seems to benefit from continuing to
    resuscitate patients who are irreversibly dead.
    As some staff members commented, the main benefit
    of the current configuration is that it takes a
    little of the abruptness of sudden death away for
    relatives and friends. I doubt, though, that the
    front of a resuscitative effort is the best way
    to prepare people for sudden death.... Relatives
    and friends are separated from the dying process
    and miss the opportunity to say goodbye when it
    could really matter to them, that is when there
    is still a chance that their loved one is
    listening.

22
Untimely death
  • Research by Jane Seymour within a British context
    points to significant similarities in the
    management of traumatic death. In particular,
    comparison of the two studies show how the
    medical, bureaucratic and legal frameworks in
    each country set contexts for death practices.
    Seymour like Timmermans is able to make the link
    between the practices in hospitals by which
    medical staff deal with death and the cultural
    problems caused by the medicalisation of death.
    The belief in the power of science to solve the
    specific causes of death in particular patients
    is a reflection of the dominance of medical
    institutions to define death and thus old age.
  • Intensive care reflects the modern preoccupation
    with the mastery of disease and the eradication
    of untimely death. It is the place to which
    clinicians may refer a patient when that
    individual stands at the brink of death and is
    beyond the reach of conventional therapies.
    Unravelling the nature of complex disease and
    predicting its outcome is complicated by the lack
    of previous familiarity between health care staff
    and the patient, by the unconscious state of the
    ill person (Muller and Koenig 1988), and by the
    advanced technical abilities of modern medicine
    to blur the boundaries between living and dying.

23
  • Social constructionist perspectives are relevant
    to old age and death as modern society are busy
    changing the fundamentals of the meaning and
    definition of both conditions.
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Introduction to Social Analysis Week 7

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Title: Introduction to Social Analysis Week 7


1
Introduction to Social Analysis Week 7
  • Studying Bodies and Dying

2
How to study bodies?
  • In what sense and in what way is the body a
    cultural construction or merely a biological
    mechanism?
  • How are society and culture are inscribed on
    bodies - gendered and aged bodies?
  • The limits of social constructionism - death and
    dying as cultural products.

3
In what sense and in what way is the body a
cultural construction or merely a biological
mechanism?
  • All societies embellish the body with clothes,
    ornament and decoration the way you look
    conveys a message about who you are.
  • Giddens suggests - Our bodies are deeply
    affected by our social experiences, as well as by
    the norms and values of the groups to which we
    belong.
  • Social change and the body
  • Science and Technology
  • Consumerism

4
Consider body shape
  • Height, genetic and social component. The average
    height in US /UK gone up systematically for a
    century. Nutritional change
  • Body mass, rise in obesity, rise in eating
    disorders (anorexia, bulimia)
  • Aesthetic considerations, fashionable or
    desirable body
  • Manipulation of body shape through surgery,
    exercise.

5
Body shape illustrations
  • http//www.ifbb.com/halloffame/1999/CoryEverson2.j
    pg
  • http//www.bodybuildingcompetition.com/bodcover.jp
    g

6
  • http//techcenter.davidson.k12.nc.us/spring5/godde
    ss2/earthmom.jpg

7
(No Transcript)
8
Anorexia, bulimia, obesity
9
Reality of social constructions
  • It is a false distinction to contrast social
    construction as merely the products of a cultural
    imagination as opposed to scientific facts which
    represent the truth about nature.
  • There are more fundamental epistemological issues
    at stake about how it is possible to have
    knowledge of nature and it is clearly not
    possible to have a knowledge tradition which
    stands outside of society. Thus social
    constructions are real in at least two senses.
  • There is one sense which is pithily put by Thomas
    that if men define situations as real, they are
    real in their consequences (Thomas and Thomas
    1928572).
  • There is also a further sense in which natural
    phenomena are social constructions as they cannot
    be communicated, discussed and understood without
    a social basis of cultural concepts held in
    common. It may be that the natural world cannot
    even be thought about without the social
    precursor of language.
  • Cultural concepts and language with which
    knowledge is expressed are produced in historical
    and continuous processes in which the social and
    the natural environment are critical components.
    These resources for understanding the world are
    not independent of the social and natural
    environment. The social environment includes
    beliefs about reality, and the natural
    environment regularly forces itself into our
    lives in unanticipated ways. If an inexplicable
    or unforeseen natural event is manifest then, if
    it is too novel to fit the existing cultural
    schema, new concepts and language are developed
    to cope with it. Science of course does this
    routinely all the time.

10
How society and culture are inscribed on bodies -
gendered and aged bodies?
  • Reading
  • Fraser, M. and Greco, M. 2005 The Body A reader.
    London Routledge. Introduction. 301.2 Fra
  • An introduction to the field providing an
    explanation of why it has become some significant
    within Sociology and the intellectual origins of
    the ideas.

11
(No Transcript)
12
The limits of social constructionism - death and
ageing as cultural products.
  • social constructionist approaches to the study of
    old age reveals that ageing not simply a matter
    of biological determinism, there are important
    social processes independent of any physiological
    changes as the body ages.
  • But what are the limits to social
    constructionism? Surely death and the frailties
    of the fourth age are not social constructions?
  • Cross cultural anthropology of ageing enables us
    to see that different cultures approach ageing
    and death in very different ways. There are many
    myths and stories told, and rituals re-enacted
    through which through notions of resurrection,
    transformation, re-incarnation and others at some
    level defeat death. But every one dies.
  • Similarly, despite the ubiquity of nostrums about
    delaying ageing from green tea to exercise
    regimes, experience tells us that everyone ages.
  • Is the natural world, and in particular the human
    body a procrustean bed on which social
    constructionism must lie?

13
Death contrasts with life. Who is alive and who
is dead and how do we know? This boundary is
highly contested and fraught with moral dilemmas.
  • Lock M (1996) Death in technological time
    Locating the end of meaningful life Medical
    Anthropology Quarterly 10 (4) 575-600 DEC 1996
  • Lock conducted cross cultural studies on the
    changing medical definitions of death looking at
    USA and Japan.
  • The medical definition of death has shifted in
    recent history contemporary medical protocols
    for establishing death tend to use a concept of
    brain death. This in the US co-incides with the
    development of transplant technology and the
    electro-encephalograph.
  • Lock argues that the Japanese social view of
    death did not accept this definition the first
    Japanese heart transplant surgeon was charged
    with murder.
  • For us death has ceased to be a natural event.
    If people die of something it must be something
    that science can, at least potentially,
    understand and control
  • There are a number of social constructionist
    accounts of death classically Glaser and Straus
    (1965), and Sudnow (1967) plus more recent
    studies of death as practiced in hospital
    intensive care units (Timmermans, 1998 Seymour,
    2000).

14
Death and old age are conceptually related
  • Mortality comes with sexual reproduction, simple
    single cell creatures simply divide. For higher
    animals old age takes its place in developmental
    cycles alongside conception, birth and maturity.
    Thus of humans death is the boundary marker for
    the cessation of old age and important part of
    its meaning.
  • The medical definition of death is clearly a
    social construction and has been subject to
    cultural and technical change. We can ask, who,
    within what frame of reference, and for what
    purpose, is death being defined?
  • Thus cultural variations in the precise time and
    mode in which old age is concluded, can be
    studied and the significance for old age drawn
    out.

15
Social construction of old age
  • In understanding the frameworks of meaning which
    make up cultures it is important to study the
    transitions - the practices, symbols and rituals
    - which mark inclusion in and removal from social
    categories, including life stages.
  • Just as in the modern West the transition out of
    childhood associated with sexual maturity and
    legal and moral responsibility marks childhood as
    a period of innocence think of the symbols
    associated with the key of the door coming of
    age rituals, so the meaning attributed to death
    marks old age with distinctive characteristics.
    There are various models of the life course, but
    they all end in old age.
  • Social constructionist approaches to old age have
    concentrated on the transition to old age, and
    examined the markers and social processes by
    which old age is distinguished from middle age.
    Historical work has identified the ways in which
    the establishment of retirement as an institution
    is linked with the idea of old age as a post-work
    phase of life and set chronological markers at
    age 60 or 65.

16
  • Old age has always ended in death but death has
    not in the past been the exclusive domain of the
    old. Demographic changes have meant that old age
    has become more and more associated with death.
  • As people live their full span with more and
    more certainty, and no longer live with death as
    an immediate and imminent possibility in the way
    that our ancestors did, old age and death become
    culturally linked in new ways.
  • We may still die by act of God that is accident
    of some kind or at the hands of our fellow man
    or through disease or illness before we are
    thought to be old but this is increasingly
    unlikely. caveat about war / global catastrophe
    cf risk society

17
Modern western societies organise their response
to old age around the concepts of science and
medicine.
  • The dominance of Western scientific medicine
    transforms old age from natural event to a
    disease. Old age is no longer experienced from a
    religious perspective - as a divinely ordained
    path through life. Successful old age is not seen
    as it was in the 18th and 19th century as the
    outcome come of a moral life but rather as the
    absence of disease.
  • Professional knowledge and expertise with to
    explain and control the status of old age moved
    from pastor and priest to doctor and
    geriatrician. Old Age became an object of
    scientific and rational knowledge controlled by
    experts. It cannot be a subjective experience
    you are not only old as you feel when there is
    a scientifically trained expert waiting to tell
    you basis of your feelings, how false is your
    optimism, your probabilities of survival, and
    which chemical will make it all better.
  • Step by step doctors and medical practitioners
    monopolised the treatment of disease within that
    scientific knowledge frame and gave them
    unrivalled social esteem and professional power -
    literally the power of life and death.
  • Old age then ceases to be a social position and
    status within society, it becomes primarily a
    process of physical decline because that is what
    can be scientifically studied and to which we
    believe science will find solutions.
  • In the modern world, embedded in the belief in
    progressive science is the implication that it
    will provide the solution for death. Scientists
    claim to have the techniques for increasing
    longevity, if not exactly now, at least the
    potential for the future. Scientific medicine
    acts as if it should have and eventually will
    find the cure for death. For the medical
    technician every death represents a failure.

18
Studies
  • Sudnow, David (1967) Passing On The Social
    Organization of Dying. London Prentice-Hall
    International.
  • US study of death in hospitals. Coined the term
    social death. Demonstrated that people died
    social before they were physical dead, and
    similarly could be physically dead but socially
    alive.
  • Also demonstrated that the social stratification
    in life also stratified death.

19
Studies
  • Timmermans, Stefan 1998 Social Death as
    Self-fulfilling Prophecy David Sundows Passing
    On Revisited. The Sociological Quarterly 39(3)
    pp.453-472.
  • An American study by Timmermans takes Sudnow's
    description of how the presumed social value of
    patients affected the performance of hospital
    staff in attempts to revive them.
  • Seymour, Jane Elizabeth (2000) Negotiating
    natural death in intensive care. Social Science
    Medicine 21(8)1241-1252.
  • Seymour (2000) explains how medical staff in
    intensive care settings have to deal with the
    social expectations of scientific infallibility.

20
What kind of life is worth living
  • Since that 1960s study health care has undergone
    dramatic changes and Timmermans examines whether
    the social rationing described by Sudnow is still
    prevalent. The study was based on observation of
    112 resuscitative efforts and interviews with
    forty-two health care workers. Timmermanss
    pessimistic conclusion is that the recent changes
    in the health care system did not weaken but
    instead fostered social inequality in death and
    dying. He argues, firstly that the cultural
    evaluation of old age adversely affects the way
    older people get treated in a medical context and
    secondly that the domination of medical knowledge
    limits the possibility of a good death.
  • With respect to the first issue, that of cultural
    evaluation of the old, Timmermans links older
    people with the disabled and says -
  • Unfortunately, the attitudes of the emergency
    staff reflect and perpetuate those of a society
    generally not equipped culturally or structurally
    to accept the elderly or people with disabilities
    as people whose lives are valued and valuable
    (Mulkay and Ernst 1991)... The staff has
    internalized beliefs about the presumed low worth
    of elderly and disabled people to the extent that
    more the 80 percent would rather be dead than
    live with a severe neurological disability. As
    gatekeepers between life and death, they have the
    opportunity to execute explicitly the pervasive
    but more subtle moral code of the wider society.
    ...medical interventions such as genetic
    counselling, euthanasia and resuscitative efforts
    represent the sites of contention in the
    disability and elderly rights movements (Fine and
    Asch 1988, Schneider 1993).

21
beyond the help of science.
  • In terms of the second point, Timmermanss
    studies lead him to conclude that the
    medicalisation of death creates a number of
    serious problems, including precluding an
    examination of the possibilities of other ways to
    die and to bring old age to a close. Aggressive
    attempts at resuscitation in emergency
    departments and relationships with the patients
    relatives are structured around a belief in the
    technical omnipotence of medicine. It is
    necessary to follow procedures that are intrusive
    and unnecessary in order to demonstrate
    officially that the patient was beyond the help
    of science.
  • the prolonged resuscitation of anyone
    including irreversibly dead people- in our
    emergency systems perpetuates a far-reaching
    medicalization of the dying process (Conrad
    1992). Deceased people are presented more as not
    resuscitated than as having died a sudden,
    natural death. The resuscitative motions render
    death literally invisible (Star 1991) the
    patient and staff are in the resuscitation room
    while relatives and friends wait in a counselling
    room. The irony of the resuscitative set-up is
    that nobody seems to benefit from continuing to
    resuscitate patients who are irreversibly dead.
    As some staff members commented, the main benefit
    of the current configuration is that it takes a
    little of the abruptness of sudden death away for
    relatives and friends. I doubt, though, that the
    front of a resuscitative effort is the best way
    to prepare people for sudden death.... Relatives
    and friends are separated from the dying process
    and miss the opportunity to say goodbye when it
    could really matter to them, that is when there
    is still a chance that their loved one is
    listening.

22
Untimely death
  • Research by Jane Seymour within a British context
    points to significant similarities in the
    management of traumatic death. In particular,
    comparison of the two studies show how the
    medical, bureaucratic and legal frameworks in
    each country set contexts for death practices.
    Seymour like Timmermans is able to make the link
    between the practices in hospitals by which
    medical staff deal with death and the cultural
    problems caused by the medicalisation of death.
    The belief in the power of science to solve the
    specific causes of death in particular patients
    is a reflection of the dominance of medical
    institutions to define death and thus old age.
  • Intensive care reflects the modern preoccupation
    with the mastery of disease and the eradication
    of untimely death. It is the place to which
    clinicians may refer a patient when that
    individual stands at the brink of death and is
    beyond the reach of conventional therapies.
    Unravelling the nature of complex disease and
    predicting its outcome is complicated by the lack
    of previous familiarity between health care staff
    and the patient, by the unconscious state of the
    ill person (Muller and Koenig 1988), and by the
    advanced technical abilities of modern medicine
    to blur the boundaries between living and dying.

23
  • Social constructionist perspectives are relevant
    to old age and death as modern society are busy
    changing the fundamentals of the meaning and
    definition of both conditions.
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