Good end? Exploring the public deliberation on end-of-life decision making and the legitimacy of pre-planned death in Israeli media

Supervising investigator: Prof. Shai Lavi

Research fellow: Tal Morse


Medical progress enabled to cure illness, extend life expectancy and prolong the lives of the ill and the old. Yet, it turned out that postponing death have a downside, as, in some cases, it prolongs pain and suffering. This has led to the understanding of the shortcoming of modern medicine and of the need to find the balance between long life and good life. And so emerged the notion of the “good death”, which is a death following long and fulfilled life, free from avoidable distress and suffering. And yet, since death is heavily loaded with cultural, ethical and religious meaning, these ideas are subject to fierce, on-going debate.


As our engagement with the world and its phenomena is constituted and shaped by discourse, so the meaning ascribed to death is bound to discursive regimes. These regimes establish the legitimacy of deliberation over matters of public interest and set the rules of engagement with these matters in term of how to discuss them, when and where. Since the meaning of death is the product of a cultural struggle, we need a discourse analysis to identify and account for the various discursive strategies employed by religious, legal and medical and other institutions to fix the meaning of death and to set the boundaries of its public discussion.


Objectives: This project seeks to study the cultural struggle over the meaning of death and the quality of life in Israel drawing on discourse theory. This approach studies discourse as ideology and offer useful toolkit to account for the strategies of generating meaning. Given the rigid position of Jewish religion on questions of ending life, and based on the solid dominance of Judaism in Israel, this project aims to explore the public deliberation on end-of-life decision making and the legitimacy of pre-planned death. The main focus of the analysis is the articulation of the “good death” as a valid option in end-of-life decision making.


Following theories on the public sphere, the project focuses on the media as a space of deliberation and antagonism, where the struggle over the fixation of meaning takes place. Studying the media as a space of deliberation becomes even more important when the issues at hand are death related. In the course of the past century, death became a mediated phenomenon, and the prime encounter and engagement with death is through the media. Thus, the media is a central site where the struggle and the contestation over definition and meaning of the “good death” take place.



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