Following the bubonic plague of the 14th century, which decimated two thirds of Europe's population, the Roman Catholic Church responded with a call for the articulation of an ars moriendi, or art of dying, that could guide laypersons in their preparation for death. The body of literature that resulted shaped both religious and secular practices in the West for hundreds of years. But by the middle of the 20th century, technology's ability to delay the moment of death fostered a "medicalized" death. Physicians Lydia Dugdale and Thomas Duffy discuss what this has meant for individuals in the current age, and how medicine might better prepare patients and their families for their final hours. Lydia S. Dugdale, MD, is associate director of the Yale Program for Biomedical Ethics and an assistant professor of medicine. She edited the 2015 volume, "Dying in the Twenty-First Century: Toward a New Ethical Framework for the Art of Dying Well" (MIT Press). Thomas P. Duffy, MD, is professor emeritus of medicine (hematology) and former director of the Program for the Humanities in Medicine at Yale.
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