Reimagining End of Life at Union

At the end of October, the Reimagine End of Life Conference will host a citywide conversation about life and death. The conference is an exploration of death and celebration of life through creativity and conversation. Drawing on the arts, spirituality, healthcare, and design, it creates weeklong series of events that break down taboos and bring diverse communities together in wonder, preparation, and remembrance. Three events will take place at Union: The Trans Sounds of Black Freedom & Black Spirituality, Conversations I Wish I Had, and Ballroom Has Something to Say: About Death and Dying. In preparation for the conference, we sat down with Pamela Cooper-White, the Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology & Religion, to talk about end-of-life care and a “good death.”
Could you talk a little bit about what constitutes a good death?
Between the Middle Ages and the medicalized twentieth century, people stopped talking about a good death and started having a very sanitized, walled-off death in linoleum hospital corridors, surrounded by people in white coats and with lots of tubes sticking out. Family members were not even encouraged to present at the time of the death. There was a comeback in the twentieth century with people like Cicely Saunders in Britain and Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in Switzerland, who had a lot of influence here in the U.S. with the hospice movement. As much as possible, they said, it would be better for people to die at home in the bosom of their family than in clinical settings. The whole social

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