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Medical practice, procedure manuals and the standardisation of hospital death

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HADDERS H. Nursing Inquiry 2009; 16: 22–32

Medical practice, procedure manuals and the standardisation of hospital death

This paper examines how death is managed in a larger regional hospital within the Norwegian health-care. The central focus of my paper concerns variations in how healthcare personnel enact death and handle the dead patient. Over several decades, modern standardised hospital death has come under critique in the western world. Such critique has resulted in changes in the standardisation of hospital deaths within Norwegian health-care. In the wake of the hospice movement and with greater focus on palliative care, doors have gradually been opened and relatives of the deceased are now more often invited to participate. I explore how the medical practice around death along with the procedure manual of post-mortem care at Trondheim University Hospital has changed. I argue that in the late-modern context, standardisation of hospital death is a multidimensional affair, embedded in a far more comprehensive framework than the depersonalised medico-legal. In the late-modern Norwegian hospital, interdisciplinary negotiation and co-operation has allowed a number of different agendas to co-exist, without any ensuing loss of the medical power holder's authority to broker death. I follow Mol's notion of praxiographic orientation of the actor–network approach while exploring this medical practice.
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Keywords: dead patient; death; last offices; post-mortem care; procedural manuals; standardisation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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