A Social History of Dying by Allan Kellehear

By Allan Kellehear

Our reports of demise were formed via historical principles approximately loss of life and social accountability on the finish of existence. From Stone Age rules approximately loss of life as otherworld trip to the modern Cosmopolitan Age of demise in nursing houses, Allan Kellehear takes the reader on a 2 million 12 months trip of discovery that covers the most important demanding situations we are going to all ultimately face: looking forward to, getting ready, taming and timing for our eventual deaths. it is a significant assessment of the human and medical sciences literature approximately human death behavior. The ancient procedure of this ebook areas our contemporary photos of melanoma death and therapy in broader old, epidemiological and international context. Professor Kellehear argues that we're witnessing an increase in shameful varieties of loss of life. it isn't melanoma, middle affliction or clinical technology that offers smooth demise behavior with its maximum ethical exams, yet quite poverty, getting old and social exclusion.

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The burning of skulls of the dead, or the marking of trees with circles so the ghost will go round and round rather then follow his former kinsfolk are both examples of practices designed to bid a very final farewell. Whatever affection there might be there is also a very real dread of seeing the dying person again. Desire and repulsion coexist in farewelling the dying. 42 THE STONE AGE Among the Torres Strait Islanders (Frazer 1913a: 174) the dead are often carried out feet first to prevent them from returning.

With these views, it is natural that they should desire to pass through this change before their mental and bodily powers are so enfeebled by age as to deprive them of their capacity for enjoyment. To this motive must be added the contempt which attaches to weakness among a nation of warriors, and the wrongs and insults which await those who are no longer able to protect themselves. (Notes from US Exploring Expedition: Ethnology and Philology by H. Hale [1846] quoted in Frazer 1911b: 11–12) And so among the Chiriguanos in South America the nearest relative took to breaking a person’s spine with an axe to help his loved one avoid a natural death.

But in any case these were all early humans and they had several important epidemiological and demographic facts in common. For at least some 200 000 years (and most likely much earlier) these people produced basic tools and ornaments, hunted and foraged and were also hunted by other predators, and lived short, perilous lives. There appears to be a general, single pattern of mortality across mammals which is also consistent across primates, that is, mortality is high at birth and declines rapidly with age (Gage 1998).

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