Chapter Five: Mass Media Depictions of the Dying Process
Mass Media Depictions OF THE Dying Process
JAMES D. ROBINSON
Perhaps the single most powerful example of the role the media plays in public perceptions of the end-of-life experience (EOL) occurred in 2014 when Brittany Maynard documented her decision to end her life after being diagnosed with cancer. She was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma (GBM)—a type of brain cancer that spreads quickly, is extremely difficult to treat, and is relatively uncommon among younger adults. In the U.S., approximately 12,000 people are diagnosed with GBM annually and the median age of those who die of GBM is 71. At the time of her diagnosis and at the time of her death, Maynard was only 29 years old. Maynard moved to Oregon with her husband so that she could legally end her life under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, but not before she documented her EOL experience in a series of YouTube videos. These videos have been watched by tens of millions of viewers. Many social critics and pundits have credited Brittany with bringing the right-to-die movement back to the forefront of the public’s consciousness. While the ultimate impact of Maynard’s documentary efforts are not known, a growing body of research examining media portrayals of the EOL experience has emerged. This chapter reviews that literature and discusses the implications of such portrayals on audience attitudes toward death and dying. ← 77 | 78 →
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