Lutfiyya & Schwartz on Understanding Suffering Better
Dr. Zana Marie Lutfiyya and Karen D. Schwartz recently contributed to the conversation on palliative care and dignity with their article “In pain waiting to die”: Everyday understandings of suffering published in the Cambridge Online Journal: Palliative and Supportive Care (2012), Volume 10, Issue 1, pages 27–36. (Cambridge University Press, 2012.)
In Dr. Lutfiyya’s and Schwartz’s abstract for “In pain waiting to die”: Everyday understandings of suffering found on the Cambridge Online Journals website the reader is introduced to online discussions of suffering as they relate to assisted suicide. For more information see the abstract below.
Objective: The notion of “suffering” is understood in very different ways in a variety of contexts. In palliative care, the relief and prevention of suffering is considered to be a fundamental goal (Pastrana et al., 2008). However, the avoidance of suffering has also been used as an argument by those campaigning for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide (Finlay, 2009). In reflecting upon suffering in these two contexts, we were intrigued by Finlay’s (2009) contention that to laypeople, the phrase “‘unbearable suffering’ conjures up images of patients on their deathbeds wracked with uncontrolled pain” (p. 1841).
Method: This article explores how suffering is used and understood in an “everyday” discourse, by analyzing comments posted to a website debating assisted suicide in the context of the Canadian case of Sue Rodriguez.
Results: Using a broad social approach to discourse analysis (Tonkiss, 2004), three themes emerged in our analysis: (1) when people suffer, (2) how people are understood to suffer, and (3) how suffering should be dealt with. We also examined what was not said in this discussion: there was little consideration of the more holistic goals of palliative care and how suffering might be understood and managed in ways other than within the frame of assisted suicide.
Significance of results: Paying attention to the everyday discourse of suffering is important because, as members of society, we all play a role in negotiating the meaning of suffering. Such meaning has a significant impact upon patients and palliative care professionals alike.
(Received January 28 2011)
(Accepted April 09 2011)
Dr. Zana Marie Lutfiyya is an Associate Dean (Graduate & Professional Programs, and Research) in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. She is also a professor in the Department of Educational Administration, Foundations & Psychology (EAF&P) who specializes in the area of Inclusive Special Education.