Does death have value? That’s the question framing the recent Lancet Commission Report on the ‘Value of Death’, and which will be discussed at a free public event at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries, June 7th from 4:00-6:00pm. The conversation will be led by Dr Seamus O’Mahoney, a prize-winning writer and one of the primary authors of the report. Below we provide a more detail about the report, the connection to our End of Life Studies Group, and the upcoming event. We hope to see you there.
The Lancet report provides an ambitious overview of the many cultural and socio-economic drivers within the Global North which have collectively drained death of all meaning or purpose. The consequence is that dying and death have become increasingly ‘unbalanced’ in the 21st century. Some people at the end of life are subjected to invasive and medically futile treatments, frequently resulting in increased suffering. Meanwhile, others are relegated to the edges of health and social care systems – which also increases suffering.
The Value of Death Report considers this paradox by situating contemporary dying and death within a wider history of ideas, including many from the social sciences, and identifies the need for an interdisciplinary approach to the topic. This includes concepts and approaches that we’re quite familiar with here at the End of Life Studies Group, through our own research and post-graduate teaching.
For example our free 3-week online course starts with the importance of death systems – all the beliefs, rules, and behaviours that give shape to dying, death, and bereavement. We’ve problematized the elision of Global North and South issues in palliative care as it expands worldwide. We’ve conceptualized end-of-life care as a form of intergenerational ‘gift-giving’. We’ve explored the complexity of communicating prognostic uncertainty, and examined the end of life as a ‘wicked’ (difficult to solve) policy issue. We study developing issues such as the relationship between palliative care and assisted dying, equity informed palliative care, and the emergence of death doulas. Our Group members and postgraduates reflect and work on many of the other issues addressed by the report, including: the impact of COVID-19 on funerals; race and grief; LGBTQ+ issues in ageing into the end of life; as well as grief and climate change.
I offer this partial showcase of the work of our Group because I’m proud of what we do, and because it is important to the ‘every day’ thinking, planning, and actions across a diverse range of stakeholders. The Value of Death Report demonstrates the value of interdisciplinary social science approaches to understanding the past, anchoring us within present contexts, and in shaping future directions in how we organize the end of life.
The End of Life Studies Group is therefore very pleased to be hosting an afternoon conversation with one of the Report Commissioners, Dr Seamus O’Mahoney. Please join us as Dr O’Mahoney discusses the findings of the report, including the five principles for ‘radically reimagining’ a new vision of how death and dying could be. This is a free in-person event; no registration is required. We anticipate a lively discussion and there will be opportunities to hear further about the work of the End of Life Studies Group, both during and after this in-person event.
Bringing Death Back into Life: Why is dying so difficult in the 21st century?
Tuesday, June 7th, 2022 from 4:00-6:00pm
With drinks reception and refreshments
R127, Rutherford McCowan Building
School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Crichton University Campus, Bankend Road
Dumfries DG1 4ZL