13.1 DEFINITIONS AND ETHICAL ISSUES

Sociocultural Definitions of Death • Legal and Medical Definitions • Ethical Issues • Current Controversies: The Terri Schiavo Case • The Price of Life-Sustaining Care

13.2 THINKING ABOUT DEATH: PERSONAL ASPECTS Discovering Development: How Do You Describe a Life? • A Life Course Approach to Dying • Dealing with One’s Own Death • Death Anxiety

13.3 END-OF-LIFE ISSUES

Creating a Final Scenario • The Hospice Option • Making Your End-of-Life Intentions Known

13.4 SURVIVORS: THE GRIEVING PROCESS

The Grief Process • Normal Grief Reactions • Coping with Grief • How Do We Know? Grief Processing and Avoidance in the United States and China • Prolonged Grief Reactions • Adult Developmental Aspects of Grief

SOCIAL POLICY IMPLICATIONS

Summary • Review Questions • Integrating Concepts In Development • Key Terms • Resources

WHEN FAMOUS PEOPLE DIE TRAGICALLY, PEOPLE ARE CONFRONTED WITH THE REALITY

that death happens to everyone. Actor Heath Ledger, who died in 2008 at age 28 of an accidental overdose of prescription medication, is only one example, Best known for his roles in the movies Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight, Ledger had established himself as a critically acclaimed actor. Just as the rich and famous die, though, so do we.

People have a paradoxical relationship with death. On one hand, we are fascinated by it, as evidenced by the popularity of news stories about murders or wars and by the crowds of onlookers at accidents. Tourists often visit the places where famous people died or are buried. People around the world watch news broadcasts that show the horrors of war and genocide in which tens of thousands of people are killed. But on the other hand, when pondering our own death or that of people close to us, we face problems, as La Rochefoucauld wrote more than 300 years ago when he said that it is easier to look into the sun than to contemplate death. When death is personal, we become uneasy. We might not be as willing to watch the news if we knew the coverage would concern our own death. It is hard indeed to look at the sun.

For most people in the United States, death does not become a really personal experience until middle age when our parents die. We typically do not experience death up close as children; indeed, many Americans believe it is important to shield children from death. But just a few generations ago in America, death was part of people’s everyday life experience, and it still is in most of the world. Children are present when family members die. Viewings and wakes are held in the home, and children actively participate in funeral services. Perhaps we should consider what these changes in personal experience with death mean for life-span development in America today.

In this chapter, we consider death from many perspectives. We examine some of the issues surrounding how it is defined legally and medically. We address several questions: Why do most of us avoid thinking about death? What is it like to die? How are dying people cared for? How do survivors grieve and cope with the loss of a loved one?

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