How Then Should We Die?

Two Opposing Responses to the Challenges of Suffering and Death
Pages: 150


We live at a time when more and more people face the challenges of chronic illness and aging, and when the notion of “dignity” is increasingly cited in the debate regarding how best to care for those who face these challenges. This book considers two radically different perspectives of dignity: the one grounded in the prevailing cultural view that emphasizes individual autonomy, a perspective that inevitably increases the sick person’s experience of loss of dignity and that is causing a fundamental shift in attitudes towards the care of the sick; the other, grounded in the values of authentic Christian community, a perspective that transforms the meaning of illness and affords dignity to all.


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Kay Toombs is associate professor emerita of philosophy at Baylor University in Texas. In her work she explores the ways in which contemporary values and the context in which we live our lives impact our efforts to develop a sustainable culture and to form caring communities. In her work related to illness, disability and healthcare, she combines her training in philosophy with her experience of living with neurological disease (multiple sclerosis) to reflect on the experience of illness and disability, the care of the chronically and terminally ill, the relationship between health care professionals and patients, and the meaning of suffering and healing, both in the context of Western culture and within the context of intentional Christian community.