Interpreting the moment of death

Komaromy, Carol (2006). Interpreting the moment of death. In: 4th Gobal Conference Making Sense of Death and Dying, 12-14 Jul 2006, Mansfield College, University of Oxford.



The moment of death receives a lot of attention in health and social care practice – as it does in all professional groups concerned with the cause of death. During a study into the management of death and dying in care home settings for older people, I heard many accounts of the moment of death from care staff, residents, relatives and friends of deceased residents and I have written elsewhere (Komaromy, 2002) about the way that death bed scenes carry different meanings. The accounts of death by Seymour (2001), Lawton (1998) and Page and Komaromy (2005) explore some of these interpretations. However, most of this literature is focused on professional views of death. This is not surprising when the legal/medical requirement to record the time of death requires professionals who care for dying people to be present at the moment of death.
This paper offers further interpretations on the moment of death and what it means when it occurs shortly after birth. It is based on the first of a series of interviews with people who have been affected by the death of a baby and the meaning that each attaches to the moment of death. The data for this paper is drawn from on an interview with a woman whose grandson died just three hours after birth. The death was totally unexpected and the medical team made considerable attempts to resuscitate him. I explored the extent to which this moment carried significance and the place of this moment in the family’s grief.

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