The Good Death
The purpose of this essay is to examine whether there is a
incontemporary Western societies, and if so, what form this might take. First of all, the conceptof what constitutes a bad death is examined using examples from popular media which haveserved to influence this view. The good death is then contextualised as a death which doesnot have any of the characteristics of a bad death. The evolution of death has seen dying
which was once an experience shared by entire communities
become privatised, hospital-based occurrences, removed from all but immediate family.
Bad death, dying, good death, medicine, sickness.Death is what defines life. Life and Death are intricately woven together to create a tapestryof light and dark, of knowledge and ignorance, of wondering and fear. Life and living do notalways carry the same meaning, but death and dying almost always do; in every language andin every culture death means the biological end of life, or at least the end of this life. Death isinevitable; from the moment of conception a person begins the process of dying. For someindividuals, death does not occur for eighty years or more, for others it may happen beforethey are even born. However, regardless of the timing of death, it is the culture, religiouspractices and location of a society which determines whether a certain death has been good orbad. If we assume that such a thing does exist, then what are the factors which constitute a
„good death‟? Furthermore, if we
are to assume that the good death is conceivable, then there
must also exist a „bad death‟, because otherwise there would only be the fact of death, neither
positive nor negative. It is clear that death is not merely another fact of life because ashumans, we seek the meaning behind death through burial rituals, grieving, and religiouscustoms. To contextualise the concept of the good death, first we must examine what ismeant by a bad death.
According to Howarth (2007, pp 23) a bad death is an “untimely or premature end”. In the
modern Western world, thanks to the progress of medicine and increasing life expectancy,death has become more and more associated with old age. Howarth goes on to explain howmedical science has developed techniques which have drastically reduced the incidence of mortality as well as the accompanying pain. In this explanation, Howarth draws on
Simpson‟s (1972) view that the rate of medical advancement in curing previously life