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a place to die

Giddens writes, “death becomes the point zero: it is nothing more or less than the moment at which human control over human existence finds an outer limit”. Our struggle against our mortality and timely demise can be seen in our architecture, it takes the form of neoclassical columns and gothic cathedrals, but even more so, in the built structures of the modern movement.

The machine age was brought on by the industrial revolution, and effected every part of life. The mega-hospital appeared as a response to the wars of the early 20th century, and has not really changed. The place of dying from a terminal illness changed from being monasteries, alms houses and domestic settings, to cell like rooms or wards with harsh lighting, smelling of disinfectant. Stephen Verderber calls these hospitals, “machines for occupation until death”.

In this history lies many contradictions, many grounded in contrasting ideals all grounded in sincere intentions. I argue that an appropriate contemporary response to this lies in palliative care, which focusses on providing the terminally ill with system of support and symptom control services, not to cure the illness, but providing the terminally ill with dignity and comfort in the process of a natural death.

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lyla hoon

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