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Negotiating the "Good Death": Japanese Ambivalence about New Ways to Die

Susan Orpett Long
Ethnology
Vol. 40, No. 4 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 271-289
DOI: 10.2307/3773877
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3773877
Page Count: 19
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Negotiating the "Good Death": Japanese Ambivalence about New Ways to Die
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Abstract

New technologies and new interpretations of the relation between the individual and society in postindustrial countries have led to an expanded set of options for how to die, including hospice, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide. This study claims that the ambivalence among ordinary people toward these new ways to die is best understood through the thick description of in-depth ethnographic research. In Japan, inconsistencies in policies, mixed cultural messages, and personal experience all contribute to ambivalence about what constitutes a good death. While bioethics attempts to label such ambivalence as confusion or cultural lag, this article argues that it must be seen in the context of the negotiation of social roles and relationships. Data are drawn from a qualitative study, based on observation and interviews, of end-of-life decision-making conducted in urban Japan in 1996.

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