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Socialization to Dying: Social Determinants of Death Acknowledgment and Treatment Among Terminally Ill Geriatric Patients

Holly Gwen Prigerson
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 33, No. 4 (Dec., 1992), pp. 378-395
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2137315
Page Count: 18
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Socialization to Dying: Social Determinants of Death Acknowledgment and Treatment Among Terminally Ill Geriatric Patients
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Abstract

Although the vast majority of deaths occur among terminally ill geriatric patients, little is known about the etiology of these patients' death acknowledgment and ultimate type of treatment. Based on interviews with 76 triads composed of physicians, terminally ill patients, and primary caregivers, this study uses the socialization perspective to identify the actors and actions that most strongly affect the patient's death acknowledgment and receipt of exclusively palliative care (i.e., socialization to the dying role). Whereas patient preferences and sociodemographic characteristics do not influence significantly the patient's odds of death acknowledgment, these odds are increased if their primary caregivers accept death, their physicians are not affiliated with a teaching hospital, and the terminal prognosis is disclosed to them and disclosed "matter-of-factly." Patients who acknowledge death, whose agents value pain alleviation over life-prolongation, and whose physicians are not affiliated with a teaching hospital, are substantially more likely to receive exclusively palliative rather than curative terminal treatment.

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