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Dying in the Twenty-First CenturyToward a New Ethical Framework for the Art of Dying Well$
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Lydia M.D. Dugdale

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262029124

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262029124.001.0001

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Dying, a Lost Art

Dying, a Lost Art

(p.3) 1 Dying, a Lost Art
Dying in the Twenty-First Century

Lydia S. Dugdale

The MIT Press

At various points throughout history, for reasons of plague, pestilence, and war, death has dominated human consciousness. This was especially apparent during the Bubonic Plague of the fourteenth century, which claimed the lives of up to two-thirds of Europeans. The Catholic Church responded by issuing texts, collectively known as the Ars moriendi, to guide the laity in its preparation for death. These books circulated widely throughout Europe, and were adopted and modified by both the religious and the non-religious, always with a view to preparing to die well. But as late nineteenth century Western society grew increasingly concerned with the art of living well, practices concerned with dying were largely forgotten or neglected, and death became medicalized. The field of bioethics has, since its earliest days, debated end-of-life issues, but it has not definitively aided the broader public in preparing for death. This book looks to bioethics to frame a modern Ars moriendi – one that can aid an aging, plural population to prepare for death and to support its members through the dying process.

Keywords:   Bubonic Plague, Black Death, Ars moriendi, Catholic Church, Medicalized death, Bioethics

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