This chapter explores the “medicalization” of death phenomenon that emerged during the twentieth century and how it led some people to seek out a merciful way to end their lives with the assistance of a physician. It first considers the evolution in the definition of death as well as the causes of death over the centuries. It then examines scientific and technological advances that have forced definitional changes in the characterization of clinical death, along with problems associated with longevity. It also explains how death has been medicalized, whereby the dying patient and medical personnel in hospitals employ the latest medical technologies to forestall death. Finally, it discusses the distinction between social death and biological death stemming from the medicalization of death and some fundamental questions raised by medicalization regarding continuance of medical treatment for terminally ill patients.
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