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December 27, 1995

Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America

Author Affiliations

Massachusetts General Hospital Boston

JAMA. 1995;274(24):1966-1967. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530240076046

No longer in the closet, death, like sex, is now a popular theme of another kind. Everyone's talking and lecturing about it, while photographs of the dead are everywhere. We discuss do-not-resuscitate and advanced-care directives with patients; the public debates whether death should be hastened; writers encourage everyone to prepare for dying and some tell how to do it; ethicists constantly remind us of patient autonomy in decisions at the end of life; hospital administrative staff ask patients if they have living wills or proxies; and the dying increasingly accept their terminality, seeking hospice care. Besides all this talk and writing about death are the daily camera shots of dead bodies from local gang wars and distant civil wars in news media everywhere. With so many views of the dead and so much discussion of death, can Jay Ruby's book, Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America, show or

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