[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
January 22, 1997

Facing Death: Where Culture, Religion, and Medicine Meet

JAMA. 1997;277(4):346. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540280084041

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Years ago, I remember older Jewish men sitting on park benches greeting each other, "Soll sie leben bis hundert zwansig jahr." This Yiddish wish—"may you live to 120"—honored the biblical age of Moses. Moses was short-lived compared with Adam who reached 930, deprived of an even riper age owing to transgressions in the Garden of Eden. With the passage of time, I have come to realize how meagerly we have been taught about aging and the end of life.

Thanatology, the study of death, has been avoided by medical educators and relegated to philosophers and theologians. Perhaps this is understandable: witness the heated debate surrounding euthanasia and concern about the enthusiasm of students and younger physicians as they encounter the terminally ill and learn the limits of physicians' labors.

Facing Death is a slender volume with contributions from experts ranging from historian to biblical scholar, surgeon to philosopher. All have