Monthly Archives: November 2013

Values Conflict at the End of Life

Earlier in the semester, we discussed what constitutes someone as dead and what exactly defines death, since there is no universal standard. Because of this, there are discrepancies in being able to determine when a person’s quality of life is so low that they are practically dead. What makes things even more complicated is when a patient is unconscious or incapable of making the decision to end treatment and die or keep fighting.

What this article discusses is the approach family members and friends make in deciding what to do if their loved ones are in a near death state. According to a study done at Indiana University, researchers found that family members, or what the study called surrogates, often based their judgments on considerations other than what the patients want. The study constituted of interviewing 35 surrogates who made major life decisions on behalf of incapacitated seniors. Researchers found that there were two basic approaches surrogates used to make decisions–“patient-centered” or “surrogate-centered.”

Patient-centered focused on the sick person’s wishes. If there were no documents citing what the patient wants, the surrogate would base their decision on the individual’s personality and beliefs and what they thought the person would want if they were conscious and in the room with them, which is what ethicists refer to as substituted judgment. Or surrogates would recall past conversations that reflected what the person wanted.

However, on the other hand, in surrogate-centered decision thinking, the surrogate imposed their own beliefs and values and what they would want if they were in that same position. In some circumstances, they based their decision on religious values.

What I found disturbing is how the study showed the majority of individuals tend to make surrogate-centered decisions, which I find quite disrespectful to the patient because one of their biggest rights, in my opinion, is violated– they are stripped of their right to end their lives the way they determine. So I think this article shows how selfish family members and friends can be in deciding about life and death decisions by not always putting the patient’s wishes in perspective.


Acceptance and Denial of Death

In the season 8 finale of Grey’s Anatomy, a plane with many of the leading doctors of Seattle Grace crashed in the middle of nowhere.  Everyone is injured and scattered throughout the forest they crashed in.  Meredith Grey, Mark Sloan, and Cristina Yang are searching for Meredith’s half-sister Lexie.  They find her crushed under a piece of the plane.  Although Mark, Meredith, and Cristina are injured as well, they try to move the piece of the plane off of Lexie.  Realizing that they can’t remove it, Sloan holds her hand while she’s dying.  She realizes and understands that she’s going to die and tells him that, but he refuses to believe it.  He tells her that she isn’t going to die because they are going to spend the rest of their lives together.  Eventually, Lexie passes away while still holding onto Sloan’s hand.

When I watched this season finale in the past, I didn’t think much of it.  It was sad that Lexie passed away because she was a major character in the series, but I didn’t realize how she was accepting her death while Sloan was in denial of it.  It raises the question of how to console your loved ones when you know that you’re dying and they don’t want to accept it.  Are you supposed to attempt to comfort them as much as possible? Or is it okay to pass away knowing that at least you accepted your own death even if your loved ones didn’t?  Most people would probably say that being at peace with your death is considered “good,” but I wonder if that is valued more than whether or not your loved ones are at peace with it.  I also wonder if people who accept their death feel unsettled if their family or spouses don’t accept it as well.

Super Typhoon Haiyan: Only 3 Dead? News Coverage of Death

Super Typhoon Haiyan: Only 3 Dead? News Coverage of Death


Hundreds of Philippinos Seek Shelter from Massive Storm

How many people died? That’s the first thing on everyone’s minds as they hear of exotic natural disasters reported on the news. I wonder why this is the case? Why is there such an emphasis on the number of deaths, that make these things more scary/more of a tragedy? Isn’t the destruction of major infrastructure and homes enough? Do we expect people to die?

In the CNN Article posted at 8:48 this morning, The storm is reported as being one of the strongest ever, that has hit over the past night in the Phillipines. It is state that the level of damage has not been assessed, but that the . The article states that “90% of the infrastructure and establishments have already been heavily damaged,” but the scary part is that the heaviest part of the storm has not hit yet. Though the article has a suspenseful tone, it seems as though there is almost is a silent emphasis on the death toll. The three people who died are mentioned, but throughout out the article, there are subtle hints that allude to the idea that they expect more to die.

About 30 minutes later, another article was posted about this, titled: Philippines battered by monster Typhoon Haiyan; at least 4 killed. I suspect that many articles with these provocative titles will be posted throughout the next couple of days. This is more interesting, I suppose. This makes me think about death tolls and the impact that they have on the understandings of these disasters. As we discussed in class, the Tsunami about ten years ago was seen as so horrible because of the alarming amounts of people who were dead. Also the situation was so horrible because it took everyone by surprise and the town was not prepared.

This in not the case for Haiyan, as it has been established that the country is prepared, and was aware of the storm. Though there has been extensive damage, more than 700,000 people were able to be evacuated prior to the storm. Because of this preparedness, I suspect that the death toll won’t reach proportions as high as other disasters. It can’t be ignored that there are currently winds blowing at 147 miles per hour and there are millions of people in the Philippines that are currently endangered. I think we would say that we desire for the death toll to stay at 4, but I wonder if this is really the case? Would it be a better story if it was 5?

Selfies at Funerals

One of my friends recently posted an interesting link on facebook. The link was to a Tumblr. Like many popular tumblrs, this tumblr was full of pictures, but these pictures were all of selfies taken at funerals. This tumblr is a blog for people to post selfies of themselves at funerals.

The culture of the selfie tends to evolve around making silly faces, trying to be sexy, or mocking people. These are perfectly normal things to do, but they seem a little disrespectful at a funeral. At an american funeral, ones demeanor should be sorrowful and reflective. A selfie, doesn’t seem to fit that category.

This new generation, though, brought up by social media might have a harder time presenting their grief. THey are so used to posting every detail about their life on social media sites that it’s almost an instinct to post about something as important as a funeral. The problem though, is that funerals are not a place for pictures. If you think about it, funerals are the one place pictures are not taken. Grief is such a private and personal emotion. Many people don’t like to show grief in public let alone have it memorialized in picture. As a culture we try to move past our grief as quickly as we can. Taking selfies at funerals breaks that barrier.

This new phenomena of selfies is strange enough. But it is a phenomena that embodies the next generation of Americans. Maybe our culture is changing in a way that will allow pictures not just at funerals but at all occasions, but I’m not sure if that’s for the best.


The Last Meal

There is a really interesting website called the Last Meals Project.  It documents the last meals of inmates on death row as a statement on the death penalty.  The profiles contained on the site include a variety of celebrity criminals, such as Timothy McVeigh and Ted Bundy.  It shows pictures of the condemned, as well as of their last meal foods.

The site points out that the last meals of prisoners on death row become a matter of public record.  The whole concept, according to Brent Cunningham, is either perverse or compassionate, for, as its last act, the state offers the incarcerated the substance of life.  Also, the connection between food and death is extensive, in a variety of cross-cultural rituals, from Huron farewell feasts to Chinese rituals of feeding the dead, so the last meal also serves as a consolidation of this connection.

Brent Cunningham also points out that the American public is almost entirely removed from the execution process.  This raises the question of whether or not the last meal is still a ritualized step offered before execution or whether the last meal’s relevance has declined.  According to Daniel LaChance, the last meal remains an important ritual because it offers an emotional component to an otherwise sterile execution process and restores a degree of humanity to the condemned.  On the other hand, even though last meals are a matter of public record, they are not a terribly well publicized phenomenon.  The last meal project site is attempting to change this.

The irony of the process is that prisoners often do not get what they ask for for their last meals.  Thus, the last meal ritual remains in use because what is considered important  is the request that is broadcast to the public.  Society can see that prisoners are treated with a degree of compassion, if they are given a special last meal before their execution.  So, considering this phenomenon, we have to ask, is justice served?