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Living with Death in Rehabilitation: A Phenomenological Account

Authors
  • Abrams, Thomas1
  • Setchell, Jenny2, 3
  • 1 Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada , Kingston (Canada)
  • 2 University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, M5G 1V7, Canada , Toronto (Canada)
  • 3 University of Queensland, Brisbane, St. Lucia, QLD, 4072, Australia , Brisbane, St. Lucia (Australia)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Human Studies
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Publication Date
Nov 22, 2018
Volume
41
Issue
4
Pages
677–695
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10746-018-09484-1
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
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Abstract

This paper uses an ongoing ethnography of childhood rehabilitation to rethink the Heideggerian phenomenology of death. We argue that Heidegger’s threefold perishing/death/dying framework offers a fruitful way to chart how young people, their parents, and practitioners address mortality in the routine management of muscular dystrophies. Heidegger’s almost exclusive focus on being-towards-death as an individualizing existential structure, rather than the social life with and around death, is at odds with the clinical experience we explore in this paper. After looking to the basic structures of Heidegger’s philosophy of death, we point to recent work by Leder, Svenaeus, Aho, and Carel, bringing health and the spaces of healthcare into our purview. Turning to ethnographic data, we argue that a revised phenomenology of death gives a nuanced account of how health care practitioners address death, dying, and perishing, and outline some steps toward a more ontologically sensitive clinical space. These revisions are in line with recent work in disability studies, that see disability as more than a death sentence. We advocate adjusting phenomenological reflections on disability, to be framed as a way of life, rather than as a deficient or especially deadly mode of human existence.

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