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Is death un-American?

2014 Lorraine Grace Lecture on societal issues of biomedical research presented by Mount Holyoke College President Lynn Pasquerella, Ph.D. We live in a society in which technological advancements have preceded thoughtful reflection regarding the ethical, legal and social implications of the use of that technology with respect to when and how patients should be allowed to die. How should we as a society allocate scarce medical resources? Can individualism be excessive in matters of life and death? How can we balance the values of pluralism and tolerance on the one hand against principles of fairness to all on the other? Should our society continue to view death as a failure and, thus, distinctly un-American? Drawing on experience as an ethics committee member for community hospitals, teaching hospitals at major universities, bio-banks, and state health departments, Pasquerella discusses the significant rise in instances of “moral distress” among physicians relating to end-of-life issues, details some challenges for contemporary bioethics with respect to decisions around death and dying in the U.S. and discusses how physicians and bioethicists can work together to address our common objectives related to providing the best care possible at the end of life.