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Communication at the End of Life

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Edited By Jon F. Nussbaum, Howard Giles and Amber Worthington

Communication is at the heart of any complete understanding of the end of life. While it is true that individuals physically die as a single entity, the process of ending an individual life is located within a complex system of relationships and roles connected and constructed through communicative processes. In this volume, top scholars from numerous disciplines showcase the latest empirical investigations and theoretical advances that focus on communication at the end of life. This multi-contextual approach serves to integrate current findings, expand our theoretical understanding of the end of life, prioritize the significance of competent communication for scholars and practitioners, and provide a solid foundation upon which to build pragmatic interventions to assist individuals at the end of life as well as those who care for and grieve for those who are dying. This book is suitable for undergraduate and graduate courses in Death and Dying, Communication and Aging, Health Communication, Life Span Development, Life Span Communication, Long term care, Palliative care and Social Work.
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Chapter One: Health Communication and Death Studies

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CHAPTER ONE

Health Communication AND Death Studies

TERESA THOMPSON

As one of the newer areas of study within the field of communication, the topic that has come to be known as health communication has already made important contributions to our understanding of the dying process, to the care accompanying dying, and, to a lesser degree, to grieving and bereavement (see Toller, this volume). All of these issues are addressed separately within the various chapters included within this volume, but I would like to share with you my perspective on them from within the context of the area of health communication in particular. As the Editor of the journal Health Communication for 27 years, an editor of the first and second editions of the Routledge Handbook of Health Communication (Thompson, Dorsey, Miller, & Parrott, 2003; Thompson, Parrott, & Nussbaum, 2011), and the editor of the recent three-volume, 600-entry Encyclopedia of Health Communication (Thompson, 2014a), I am hopeful that I am able to put the study of dying and death issues into the broader context of health communication scholarship for readers. I have also written about dying and death issues, writing my first chapter on the topic in Nussbaum, Thompson, and Robinson’s (1988) book Communication and Aging during the time that my father died. That event significantly changed my perspective on dying and death issues, of course, and, like most others writing in an area that is personally important to them, I now bring my private...

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