Facing the death of other people, we are confronted with our deepest convictions of what makes sense and what does not.
A mother of four should not die of breast cancer in her mid 40s, for this runs contrary to whatever possible order of justice in the world. A beloved father in a vegetative state should not die a horrible death when feedings tubes are withdrawn. Even when he had always stated that he would not have wanted to live in this condition.
In most people, witnessing someone dying, evokes a multitude of emotions and thoughts, ranging from feelings of guilt or responsibility to sadness, anger or sometimes even joy. Emotions are important human reactions to situations, containing knowledge and appraisals of reality, and having an intelligence of their own.
Carlo Leget discusses in an editorial in the journal Palliative Medicine the importance of understanding and respecting emotions of family members of dying patients. It, for example, mentions the importance of culture in ethical issues, and how difficult it can be to respect cultural diversity, especially when it touches upon our deepest felt emotions and convictions.
"Ethics is a cultural product based on a shared legacy and lived experience reflected in a particular language, history, and traditions. "
Ethics, emotions and culture: Respecting moral diversity
The experience of being involved in the dying process of another person has an impact on almost every human being. Whether this involvement is that of a professional care giver, a relative or a volunteer seems of secondary importance.
The direct confrontation with a dying process is an experience that confronts us with the finitude and irreversibility of human existence. In most people, this evokes a multitude of emotions and thoughts, ranging from feelings of guilt or responsibility to sadness, anger or sometimes even joy.
Emotions are important human reactions to situations, containing knowledge and appraisals of reality, and having an intelligence of their own.
- Leget, C. (2018). Ethics, emotions and culture: Respecting moral diversity. Palliative Medicine, 32(7), 1145–1146. Doi: 10.1177/0269216318777905
Dr. Merel Visse works as senior researcher and associate professor Care Ethics and Policy at the University of Humanistic Studies in The Netherlands. As a scholar and artist, she combines theoretical and practice-based work to inquire about the moral good in care. In addition to regular scientific output such as publications, she also makes publications, installations, objects, drawings, research projects and communities to inquire ‘care’.