Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.

The Dying Process

The dying process

Asking Samuel Johnson in 1769, when he was 60 years old, if one should “fortify” the mind against “the approach of death” would have elicited this passionate rebuff: “No, Sir, let it alone. It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time” (Boswell [1799] 1953:427). By the end of the 19th century in the United States, the same rebuff would have been appropriate. Life expectancy for a female born in 1900 was 46.3 years, and for a male it ...

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