“I refuse to have a terrible death”: the rise of the death wellness movement – Fast Company, 07 May 2019, Rina Raphael
Overcoming Life’s Last Taboo
“Dying as one wishes has become a luxury. Even though 70% of people would prefer to die at home surrounded by loved ones, most forfeit their future to a windowless hospital room, attached to tubes and monitors. What was once a homebound stage of life has become a lonely, sterilized experience with a host of unfamiliar faces. America, a country founded on rugged individualism and freedom, can’t accommodate even the simplest of last choices.”
Through the WI Lens
The ‘death positive movement’ is on the march in the United States. What was once taboo has now become the focus of innovation as a still-nascent cottage industry arises to invent new ways of doing everything concerning death – and to re-discover traditions that have been lost. At the heart of the movement is the recognition that death is, in essence, part of life. Why live the good life, striving to achieve health and mental wellbeing, if your life ends in a way you would never desire? This piece charts how we got to the contemporary state of death, with its impersonal hospital rooms and stilted approach to discussing the topic, and surveys the panoply of ideas and initiatives that are seeking to make the end of life a more positive experience for everybody – from death doulas who provide support, to living wills and even Death Cafes where people meet to discuss death over tea and cake.
The take out? There’s clearly an opportunity for services for the dying that treat the subject holistically, rather than as a medical process. But a more candid conversation, one that allows people to confront their fears and express their wishes, is an aspect of this movement that has far-reaching implications for all those involved in healthcare and wellbeing.
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.
This is not the testimony of any ordinary victim of Covid-19, but that of virologist Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and one of the scientists who discovered Ebola back in 1976.
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Before Times and After Times. Is that how we’ll come to see the Covid-19 pandemic in the fullness of time?