What Enhancement Techniques Suggest about the Good Death

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The contemporary increase in life expectancy in Western countries has led to an intensified focus on good ageing processes as a way to manage ageing populations. We argue that while qualifications of the ageing process such as active and healthy ageing endeavour to compress morbidity through enhancement techniques, the idea of the good old age also implicitly tells a tale about the ‘good’ death. We explore how current discourses depict old age as an active, engaged and independent life phase and construct a specific idea of the good death as one that is quick and painless. By engaging with literature on ageing, death and enhancement technologies as well as current Danish healthcare initiatives, we examine the paradoxical, contemporary notion of death as natural, quick, painless and controllable. Danish rehabilitation programmes are provided as an example of specific enhancement techniques that through motivation and physical activity orchestrate the good death in a body that has been as healthy as possible for as long as possible. However, when such techniques become a moral injunction rather than a choice, questions arise concerning the relationship between autonomy and death. We argue that the discursive construction of the good death happens in tandem with enhancement techniques that postpone death, and that this postponement of death has increasingly become more of an imperative than an autonomous decision.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture Unbound
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)104-121
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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