Tag Archives: healing

The Sanitization of Death and Dying

Alan Friedman, Ph.D. and Craig Hurwitz, MD advocate for palliative care in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley
Death-bed scene, figures crowd around a dying person's bed in grief while final rites are being read. Stipple engraving by N. Schiavonetti, 1812, after R. Westall.
Death-bed scene, figures crowd around a dying person’s bed in grief while final rites are being read. Stipple engraving by N. Schiavonetti, 1812, after R. Westall.

How have medical advances over the long 20th century altered the ways western cultures represent illness, death, and dying? Before the turn of the 20th century, people living in North America and Britain commonly confronted death in their own homes. The bed was often the site not only of conception and birth but of death as well. The dead and dying were familiar, commonplace, and domestic, and, consequently, the practices and rituals associated with death and dying were typically supervised by women, who commanded the domestic sphere. Yet rapidly-changing advances in science and medicine over the course of the 20th century have dramatically altered our experiences and perception of death. Geoffrey Gorer argues in his essay, “The Pornography of Death,” that death has replaced sex as the ultimate taboo in the United States and the United Kingdom; it has become sanitized and discrete from our everyday lives. Medical doctors who were once mostly helpless at best or harmful at worst to the sick, have become, with medical advances, newly able to intervene in illness and promote healing. Continue reading The Sanitization of Death and Dying

What Is Healing?

Dr. Joseph Gone discusses indigenous healing practices in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley and Clare Callahan

As an illness, cancer preserves its fundamental characteristics in spite of how cancer patients and the broader population feel about or define the illness. Cancer, in other words, is an indifferent phenomenon to the extent that how it operates is immune to the meanings one assigns to it. By contrast, an illness such as multiple personality disorder interacts with the human narratives told about it. For example, prior to approximately 1950, there were only 50 cases of multiple personality disorder in the history of medicine. In the 1990s, however, there were 50,000 cases documented in America and elsewhere. This sharp increase in the number of documented cases was arguably due to media documentation of multiple personality disorder in films such as The Three Faces of Eve (1957) and Sybil (1976). The depiction of the illness in the media, as well as the discovery of battered-child syndrome in the 1960s, created the conditions for the expression and diagnosis of multiple personality disorder. Depression may similarly interact with the narratives that are told about depression.

Continue reading What Is Healing?