The good death and the institutionalisation of dying: an interpretive analysis of the Austrian discourse

Lang, AlexanderORCID: (2020) The good death and the institutionalisation of dying: an interpretive analysis of the Austrian discourse. Social Science & Medicine, 245 (112671).

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The institutionalisation of dying is recurrently assessed as adverse to a good death. However, a majority of people die in institutions such as hospitals or nursing homes and end-of-life care at home is more and more professionally supported. This article analyses how the discursive production of dying, the good death, and the issue of institutionalisation at the end of life are interrelated. The study empirically investigates a parliamentary enquiry on dying with dignity that took place in Austria between 2014 and 2015. It employs the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse to analyse parliamentary documents and minutes, written statements submitted by individuals and organisations, as well as newspaper articles. Data analysis shows a restrictive and a permissive normative position considering both killing on request and assisted suicide. Apart from their different political demands, they both reproduce a discourse constructing dying as a longer lasting and painful process striking old or ill people. In order to enable a good death, the dying person needs comprehensive support that the informal social environment is incapable to provide. Thereby, institutionalisation is associated with negative characteristics and at the same time identified as requirement for a good death considering its role in pain management and provision of care. The analysis interprets the call for institutionalisation in the context of medicalisation and the central role of physicians to alleviate pain. The article proposes a differentiated view on institutionalisation processes and practices in end-of-life care, also reflecting the potential of institutionalisation to obstruct fundamental societal transformation.

Item Type: Article in Academic Journal
Keywords: Austria, Good death, Institutionalisation of dying, Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse, Qualitative research, End-of-life care
Funders: Austrian Central Bank, Anniversary Fund, project number: 17075
Research Units: Former Research Units (until 2020) > Techno-Science and Societal Transformation
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2019 15:18
Last Modified: 19 May 2020 13:17
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112671
ISSN: 0277-9536

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