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Lone Grøn

"Nobody should die alone." Death Doulas and Ethics of Dying in Contemporary Denmark

Lone Grøn: “Nobody Should Die Alone.” Death Doulas and Ethics of Dying in Contemporary Denmark

“Nobody should die alone,” is an often-repeated response when death doulas are asked why they choose to sit by the bedside of dying strangers. Denmark has a long and sustained tradition for community and voluntary work, where many engage as 'visiting friends’ for people who are marginalized, sick or lonely - but watch women often do not meet their subjects until the onset of the dying process.In an aging landscape marked by powerful discourses of healthy, active and successful aging - and a marked absence of sickness, old age and death – this project concerns the recent emergence and popularity of the death doula movement in Denmark. Through ethnographic fieldwork, the project explores how and why death doulas are present with and care for dying strangers, and how these encounters with mortality and finitude can be seen as an ethical response to the medicalization and silencing of death as well as to increasingly individualized forms of living and dying.The project thus seeks to 1. Capture ongoing transformations in how old age, death and moral community are experiencedin contemporary Denmark and 2. Answer a more general question of what characterizes an ethics of moral communities of strangers in order to expand on recent work within moral anthropology on individual self-formation and the care of intimate others.