Anthea Gellie and her co-authors form an eclectic team of researchers from diverse backgrounds including Medicine, Psychology, Science, and Humanities. Their paper Death: A Foe to be conquered? Questioning the paradigm reflects on changing attitudes to death and the need for a change to the current paradigm. Anthea tweets at @AntheaGellie
There are few certainties in life—death is one of them. It is worth reminding ourselves of this age old maxim in a time when medical knowledge and technology have extended the possibilities of medical care; and when most people survive to advanced age and die in hospital, not at home. Our views on death have become skewed.
We sit at an unparalleled juncture in history, in which most of us can expect to live to old age. Compare this to medieval Britain, where life expectancy was just 30 years. It is not uncommon now, however, to survive to middle age before personally experiencing the death of a loved one. Advances in modern medicine allow us to live well with chronic illness, but we also run the risk that the lives of frail older people are prolonged to the point where life becomes a burden. Dying people often fear ‘lingering on’ unnecessarily, and have priorities such as retaining a sense of control and not being a burden on their loved ones. Yet in the medical setting, we can often overlook the wishes of a patient to have a peaceful death. Continue reading