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The faces of death
  1. G Popa,
  2. Ecaterina Hanganu
  1. Medical Emergency Clinic, Institute of Medicine and Pharmacy, Jassy, Romanian Socialist Republic


    The individual's reaction to imminent death depends on his concept of the existential meaning of death.

    There are two main, but opposing, concepts, one positive and the other tragic. The first sees death as a transition to another mode of being. Within that three main modalities are to be distinguished, in which is considered either as an element in the cosmic harmony, the reintegration of the individual into the universal (the `Tagorian' mode); or secondly the possibility of man's external existence through his transfer, together with his entire physical and psychological apparatus, to a realm of legend (the `Mioritic' mode); or thirdly the culmination of life, the moment of maximum existential concentration overflowing into the universe and encircling it (the `Rilkian' mode).

    The second concept, the tragic concept, sees death either as a desired solution, which puts an end to the nothingness of life (the `Tracklian' mode); or as a nonsense, as an absurd injustice of nature (the `common' mode); or as a necessity of which we do not know the meaning, a dialectical moment of eternal change (the `Stoic' mode).

    The psychological care of the dying involves identification with the patient's concept of death, in order to maintain his morale and possibly diminish his terror of death. The doctor must therefore be a good psychologist and a genuine philosopher, in the strictest sense of the word.

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