By Alex Broom
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Extra resources for Dying: A Social Perspective on the End of Life
Bradshaw 1996; Hart, Sainsbury and Short 1998; Howarth 2007b; Lawton 1998, 2000; McNamara, Waddell and Colvin 1995). The hospice offers not only a unique place for dying but also a unique philosophy of care and dying. Largely founded on Christian values and beliefs, the hospice movement has evolved into twenty-first century to incorporate various aspects of medical as well as social and cultural values (Howarth 2007a: 139). Seeking to provide relief from ‘total pain’, the hospice has been criticised for extending the medical control of dying to incorporate a much broader series of issues beyond symptom control and alleviation.
These impact on those who are dying and those who care for them. While there is a plenitude of biographical variables influencing the experience of dying (for example, class and ethnicity), I view gender as a particularly under-researched area of death and dying, and thus worthy of significant focus. There has been a general tendency within the social sciences to interpret end-of-life experiences as largely undifferentiated in their bodily and emotional impact, and thus, I argue that a more nuanced conception of dying is necessary; exploring the role of masculinities is a starting point.
Discussion I have started this book with a focus on the perspective of doctors, which may seem curious for some readers. My reason for this point of departure is that doctors remain key to the timely topicalisation of, and recognition of, the dying process. Moreover, how they manage such challenging and emotive discussions contributes to (or not, as the case may be) the broader de-stigmatisation of the dying process for individuals and their families. Yet, as can be seen in the interviews, many doctors find the fact that their patients are dying highly problematic, themselves holding onto hope for longevity, and even continuing futile treatments (or those only ‘technically’ life-prolonging).