Scripting Death: Stories of Assisted Dying in America

Front Cover
Univ of California Press, Apr 27, 2021 - Social Science - 248 pages
How the legalization of assisted dying is changing our lives.

Over the past five years, medical aid-in-dying (also known as assisted suicide) has expanded rapidly in the United States and is now legally available to one in five Americans. This growing social and political movement heralds the possibility of a new era of choice in dying. Yet very little is publicly known about how medical aid-in-dying laws affect ordinary citizens once they are put into practice. Sociological studies of new health policies have repeatedly demonstrated that the realities often fall short of advocacy visions, raising questions about how much choice and control aid-in-dying actually affords.
 
Scripting Death chronicles two years of ethnographic research documenting the implementation of Vermont’s 2013 Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act. Author Mara Buchbinder weaves together stories collected from patients, caregivers, health care providers, activists, and legislators to illustrate how they navigate aid-in-dying as a new medical frontier in the aftermath of legalization. Scripting Death explains how medical aid-in-dying works, what motivates people to pursue it, and ultimately, why upholding the “right to die” is very different from ensuring access to this life-ending procedure. This unprecedented, in-depth account uses the case of assisted death as an entry point into ongoing cultural conversations about the changing landscape of death and dying in the United States.
 

Contents

Introduction
1
Scripting Choice into Law
22
Making Death
40
Starting the Conversation
60
Reconciling Assistance with the Physicians
84
Access and the Power to Choose
112
Choreographing Death
139
Acknowledgments
179
Notes
189
References
205
Index
225
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About the author (2021)

Mara Buchbinder is Associate Professor of Social Medicine and Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is author of All in Your Head: Making Sense of Pediatric Pain and coauthor of Saving Babies? The Consequences of Newborn Genetic Screening.
 

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