As the single most important experience in the lives of all people, the process and event of death must be handled carefully by the medical community. Twentieth-century advances in life-sustaining technology impose new areas of concern on those who are responsible for dying persons. Physicians and surrogates alike must be ready and willing to decide not to intervene in the dying process, indeed to hasten it, when they see the autonomy and dignity of patients threatened. In addition, the very ways we talk about death and dying need to come under scrutiny, and it is likely that our technical advances should be parallelled by equally arduous advances in the semantic and rhetorical approaches we take to death.
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