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Limitations In Death: Negotiating Sentiment And Science In The Case Of The Hospital Autopsy

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Chapter Summary

The cultures of death are now heavily influenced by the scriptures of science. Medicine provides a reassuring script : it seeks to manage dying and death through its diagnostic, treatment and explanatory practices. When medicine fails the human body, as it must, the clinical reason, the 'cause of death', is determined and officially recorded. This chapter explores the realms of sentiment and science, as embodied by the dead and negotiated by the living. It trails the tangle of emotions and reasons uncovered when death does not follow 'the' script. Rather than taking a theoretical, philosophical or historical stance, it situates itself within the very practical, material space of the hospital mortuary. Here perhaps, amidst its autopsy work, a lens can be held over the thoughts and feelings of those engaged in autopsy work, and the family members who strive to make sense of their loss.

Keywords: death; hospital autopsy



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