June 1961

The Meaning of Death

Author Affiliations

By Herman Feifel, Ph.D. Price, $6.50. Pp. 351, with 18 pages of illustrations. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 330 West 42d St., New York 36, 1959.

Arch Intern Med. 1961;107(6):959-960. doi:10.1001/archinte.1961.03620060159027

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On a number of occasions I have commented upon the extraordinary reluctance of modern American Society to deal with the theme of death. This is notably, in fact, notoriously, true among physicians. They have invented an elaborate series of elliptical expressions to avoid mentioning the word death outright, as though by pretending it did not exist they might be able to vanquish it. No group has a more important reason for learning what it can about the phenomenology, the interpretation, and the effect of various attitudes about the significance of death as they influence persons with serious, dangerous, or fatal disease and their families and friends. The physician's efforts to escape death have been to run away and seek refuge in group norms and actuarial statistics. The phenomenon of death and its various aspects are hidden or blurred by an embarrassed reluctance or pained look of curiosity in its presence

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