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Book and Media Reviews
March 3, 2010

The Study of Dying: From Autonomy to Transformation

JAMA. 2010;303(9):887. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.246

Dying takes many forms. Death can be sudden, peaceful, heroic, painless, lonely, agonizing, cowardly, or prolonged. The Study of Dying: From Autonomy to Transformation emphasizes the protean nature of death: “Dying is no one thing, no single experience, no easy stereotype of decline or failing.” This eloquent book explores the multitude of ways that people and animals spend their final minutes, days, and weeks before perishing.

The process of dying can be complicated and influenced by many factors—physical, cultural, spiritual, and psychological. The Study of Dying scrutinizes the course of dying from almost every perspective imaginable: historical, demographic, philosophical, religious, artistic, social, behavioral, literary, cinematic, and biomedical. Additionally, editor Allan Kellehear has identified 7 recurring themes related to the conduct of dying. These concepts are issues of personal control, withdrawal, fluctuation, collapse, disenfranchisement, transformation, and dying as a journey. As a death-centric tome, The Study of Dying uses some distinctive terminology: proto-corpse, religious slaughter, convenience euthanasia, verbal autopsy, and dirty dying.

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