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J Palliat Care. 2004 Autumn;20(3):179-84.

Pity, modernity and the spectacle of suffering.

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Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicester, UK.


The concept of dignity is often invoked in relation to ideas about a "good" death and, indeed, a "good" life. In this article, I discuss the question of dignity in relation to the rights of the individual in the modern world. This world is one where the relationship of individuals to society is contested in the context of medicine, with all its technologies of treatment and uncertainties of prognosis. For patients who criticize or oppose medicine in order to recover their dignity, it is necessary to articulate or to portray their suffering. In this way, they are able to show not only that they live in spite of illness, but that they also live by virtue of it. From this perspective, dignity is shown to be part of a collective response to a medicalized world in which ideas about illness and health are also being transformed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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