The American Dream   /   Summer 2013   /    Book Reviews

Toward a Better Death

William P. Kabasenche

Jens Aber via Unsplash.

Speaking of Dr. Tiimothy Quill, who is well-known in medical and bioethical circles for assisting a patient named “Diane” to end her life in the early 1990s, Lawrence Tribe once said, “he is a good representative of what ought to happen, because death is not his subspecialty but an integrated part of his practice. he treats someone as a whole person, not an anticipatory corpse” (278). Medical doctor and philosopher Jeffrey Bishop believes that Tribe, and medicine more generally, doth protest too much. Rather, Bishop argues that the corpse is epistemologically normative for contemporary medicine, an insight he garners from Foucault. This causes medicine to do violence to the dying, through technological manipulation of bodily function and the totalizing effects of efficiency-driven biopsychosocial and spiritual care. Bishop’s argument will put off some readers—particularly some doctors—but he does mean for this to be a wound of love. Indeed, his own experiences caring for the dying and the incongruity between the impulses that led him to medicine and what the field trained him to do and be are the likely motivations for Bishop’s work here.

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