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.
In American society, one of the strongest taboos is against death. Death is viewed as a sensitive and uncomfortable subject that many individuals choose to avoid due to the negative connotation associated with it. Due to this, death is not something discussed openly in public, therefore, there has recently been an outburst in what is known as death cafes. These death cafes are exactly what they sound like; cafes dedicated to the topic of death.
Originally starting in Europe, death cafes have spread to America in the past several years. They provide a comfortable setting where people who have lost someone can openly grieve with others and relate with one another. The people who go to these cafes come from various backgrounds, varying from a widow to a hospice nurse. One of the interviewees from the article is a pastor and what really struck me as surprising is how he views death as a “great intimacy than sex.” Because death is viewed as such a private matter, many individuals do not get the support they need when someone they love dies. Friends and family members only give the person a certain time period to mourn for their loss and then grieve in silence. Thus, these death cafes provide a place of relief and complete openness where no emotions or thoughts have to be censored.
The need to create these death cafes demonstrates how uneasy death makes society feel— to the point where death cafes to serve as a safe place where people who have dealt with death can cope and feel free to express themselves. I thought this really tied in to what we have talked about in class before of how in many cultures dealing with death is a very private affair or mourners are given a certain time frame where they are allowed to grieve and afterwards they can no longer grieve in public. This mentality shows why the creation of death cafes has become so popular and also shows how sad it is that in order to talk about death freely, it must be in a secluded area away from the majority of society. This shows that we have a long way to go on our approach towards death and the taboo that surrounds it.
Honor killings have been defined as the homicide of a family member, typically a woman, due to the belief that the victim has brought dishonor or shame to the family. This dishonor is usually brought upon the family due to rumors involving the woman having an affair or a relationship with a man, who does not meet the family standards. These honor killings are predominant in regions of North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Often, these honor killings go unreported and never reach the public eye.
In a recent article in The Jerusalem Report, a young woman was a victim of an honor killing, due to rumors that she was having a relationship with a Muslim man, something her Christian family did not deem appropriate. Due to these accusations, the woman was stabbed and killed by her cousin’s brother. The victim’s cousin, Sarah, reflects on the moment she figured out what had happened to her cousin and discusses the constant outbreaks of honor killings throughout Egypt that made her want to come out and tell her story. The link to the article can be found here:
Death is always viewed as a solemn event in any culture; however, it is more tragic to hear that a family member would kill their own. What is even more shocking is when the death is the result of a mere rumor. It makes you question how far people are willing to go in the name of honor and how people in these societies belittle the value of a human life, or more specifically, the value of a woman’s life. This article brings up the debate of when a cultural practice or ritual is no longer ethical and if it should still be tolerated. Would it be considered ethnocentric for Westerners to say that these killings are inhumane and should be stopped, or do the men in these cultures have the right to kill members of their family in the name of honor because it’s simply the way their society works?