In this article, I explore anticipation as a site of moral experience and moral willing when death may be nearby. Through an examination of the narratives of the wife of a hospice patient in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, I show that her commitment to not anticipate the course of her husband’s illness is a moral project pitted against biomedical modes of prognostication. In a context in which hospice care is the only option available for many older adults in poor health, I discuss the incommensurability between this position and the anticipatory horizon on which hospice care is predicated: the patient’s imminent death. I argue for an approach to this woman’s experience that takes into account the tendency for temporal orientations to be thrown into flux when death might be nearby, without reducing her commitment to not anticipate to mere avoidance or ‘denial’.
(Not) Anticipating as Moral Project
Reflexivity and Emotion in 'End of Life' Research
Fiona M. Harris
This article explores the embodied nature of training in social anthropology and reveals how, while working in multidisciplinary teams and drawing on research methods and approaches more commonly associated with other disciplines, one might still be 'outed' in one's interpretation and analysis. I draw on the experience of working on a project exploring methodological issues and challenges to conducting research with terminally ill cancer patients to reveal the importance of situating ourselves as researchers firmly within the prejudices of our own societies. While personal experience of losing a parent to cancer should have alerted me to other ways of seeing cancer, I was nevertheless obliged to confront sociocultural constructions of cancer and recognise them as my own. Through understanding the power of 'imagined experience', I gained further insight into how intersubjectivity and reflexivity are crucial to the research process.
Elizabeth F. S. Roberts
Sharon Kaufman, And a time to die: How American hospitals shape the end of life. New York: Scribner, 2004, 416 pp., ISBN 0-743-26476-2.
Lesley A. A. Sharp, Strange harvest: Organ transplants, denatured bodies, and the transformed self. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006, 322 pp., ISBN 0-520-24786-8.
In Italy, a public debate about the death of Eluana Englaro was set in
motion that eventually extended itself to all of the problems related
to living wills. The controversy that developed around these events
represents a case of applied public ethics that involved moral problems
related to public policy decisions. The debate demonstrates
how such (bio)ethical questions have now become priorities on
the political agenda. Decision-makers are constantly called upon to
decide and intervene in very complex and difficult environments,
both at the beginning of life (such as the debate over Law No. 40
in relation to assisted fertilization and that relative to the abortion
pill RU-486) and at the end of life. Until only a short time ago, these
environments were strictly relegated to an individual, family, or
In this article, Lionel Blue contemplates approaching the end of life. The rabbinic tradition describes this world as a ‘prozdor’, a corridor to the world to come. We are ‘in between’ creations, with a toehold in heaven, yet intimations of heaven can be found in this life. As for dying, that can be a messy business. ‘I do not like the pain which accompanies all transformation.’ Dying is very different in the experience of those who are left behind, who wish to hold on to the one who is dying, whereas the latter may need silent companionship and permission to depart. Lionel offers some personal stratagems for dealing with old age. Indulge yourself and treat yourself insofar as your medication allows. Treasure friendships. Keep up your conversation with God.