Chapter Two: Discourse “On or About’” Dying: Palliative Care
Discourse “On OR About’” Dying: Palliative Care
Language inevitably arrives at the limits of expression. For example, in medical and legal discourses, when a precise time or location cannot be isolated, then one must resort to the less specific phrase “on or about.” In light of this limited aspect of language, the present chapter admits to addressing discourses merely “on or about” death through palliative care literature. In addition to the endeavor to show the limits of language, the phrase “on or about” was also chosen to emphasize the multiplicity of discourses surrounding end of life and the inability to represent death, and therefore dying, as an immutable, singular, and definitive entity or phenomenon.
We begin with the presupposition that death is not inherently problematic, and that the appropriation of death through the assigning of meaning(s) is epochally contingent. Despite the feeling that our own relationships to death are individualized and extremely personal, our responses to death and dying are “greatly influenced by the beliefs of society which seep into the fabric of institutional power” (Powell, 2011, p. 359). In this way, end-of-life discourses are not mere reflections of individual thoughts and choices, nor are they simply representative of meaning and culture; “they are the very elements that produce meaning and culture surrounding the end of life by becoming routine, naturalized, institutionalized, and accepted” (Candrian, 2013, p. 57).
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