Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Last Things

There is no experience so universal as confronting death. As we face death with our loved ones and ultimately for ourselves, we encounter some universal ethical questions: What does dignity look like at the end of life? What responsibilities do we owe to our family and friends? When is enough enough?

How we answer those questions depends a great deal on our backgrounds—the cultural tradition we come from, the life experiences that have shaped us. In this Issues in Ethics, we explore end-of-life questions from a variety of different perspectives.

Dale G. Larson, senior editor of the Robert Wood Johnson—funded newspaper series Finding Our Way: Living With Dying in America, sets the stage. In "Tough Talk: Finding the Words for Living With Loss," Larson describes how all of us can open up conversations about these difficult issues.

End-of-Life care in the Latino community is the focus of "Reluctant Realism," by Markkula Ethics Center Director of Biotechnology and Health Care Ethics Margaret R. McLean and Santa Clara University Assistant Professor of Anthropology Margaret A. Graham.

From a Jewish perspective, Center Communications Director Miriam Schulman relates the story of her mother's last months in "The Bargain." William C. Spohn, director of the Bannan Center for Jesuit Education, recalls his own experience caring for his aging parents and extrapolates some perspectives on an ethics for caregivers.

Finally, Lawrence J. Nelson, one of the attorneys to argue the Wendland case, gives his views on the important legal precedents set by that case on terminating life-sustaining treatment.

The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics provides a forum for the discussion of these critical issues. Information on the Center's programs in health care ethics and its partnership in the Applied Ethics Center at O'Connor Hospital is also included in this publication.