Disconnectedness from the here-and-now: a phenomenological perspective as a counteract on the medicalisation of death wishes in elderly people

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 19 (2):265-273 (2016)
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Abstract

When elderly people are ideating on manners to end their lives, because they feel life is over and no longer worth living, it is important to understand their lived experiences, thoughts and behaviour in order to appropriately align care, support and policy to the needs of these people. In the literature, the wish to die in elderly people is often understood from a medical, psychopathological paradigm, referred to as cognitive impairment, depressive disorder, pathological bereavement, and suicidality. In this paper, we evaluate this dominant paradigm by considering three serious limitations, namely: (1) the risk of epistemic transformation; (2) the risk of reduction; and (3) the risk of obscuring the social and cultural embeddedness. Drawing on insights from our empirical–phenomenological research on the issue of elderly and the self-chosen death, this paper argues for a phenomenological perspective to counteract the medicalisation of death wishes in elderly people.

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