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"Requested death": a new social movement

By Fran McInerney

Abstract

This paper addresses current developments in the right-to-die arena. While discussion of this area has tradionally been the province of disciplines other than sociology, including philosophy and bioethics, this paper offers an alternative framework from which to consider the progressive interest in control and choice at life's end which had developed this century, principally in the Western world. Taking a largely socio-historical approach, this paper argues that issues such as euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide can be seen as forming part of an international social movement, which is dubbed 'the requested death movement'. The paper traces the chronology of the movement, placing its framing activities, the emergence of individual activists and events and its progressive mobilization, within a consideration of so-called 'new' social movements, which have emerged since the 1960s. These are principally concerned with resisting state control of cultural matters, while reclaiming matters of identity, privacy and individual corporeality, which it is argued are at the core of the requested death movement. It is posited that this consideration can contribute to undestandings of both the contemporary social organization of death and dying, and social movement theory more generally.

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