Choreographing a good death: Carers' experiences and practices of enacting assisted dying

Sophie Lewis, Camille La Brooy, Ian Kerridge, Alex Holmes, Ian Olver, Peter Hudson, Michael Dooley, Paul Komesaroff

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Abstract

The proliferation of assisted dying legislative reforms globally is a significant change in the social and medico-legal landscape of end-of-life care. Understanding the impacts of these legislative reforms on family members who care for a dying person is vital, yet under-theorised in research. In this article, drawing on semi-structured interviews with 42 carers for a person who has sought assisted dying in Australia, and extending ideas of ontological choreography we explore the new and complex choreographies enacted by carers in their endeavour to arrange a 'good death' for the dying person. We find that desires to fulfil the dying person's wishes are often accompanied by normative pressures, affective tensions and complexities in bereavement. Enacting assisted dying requires carers to perform a repertoire of highly-staged practices. Yet, institutional obstacles and normative cultural scripts of dying can constrain carer assisted dying practices. Understanding the nuances of carers' experiences and how they navigate this new end-of-life landscape, we argue, provides critical insights about how assisted dying legislation is producing new cultural touchpoints for caring at the end of life. Moreover, we show how emerging cultural scripts of assisted dying are impacting in the lives of these carers.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2024 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.

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