Many of the extraordinary successes of Western medicine are the result of applying to the clinical field wisdom and technology from the empirical sciences. These include diagnostic tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, based on the latest findings in elementary particle physics, as well as robots for surgery and rehabilitation, employing sophisticated artificial intelligence devices.
Biomedicine is clearly indebted to the scientific enterprise. The continuous effort to expand the limits of knowledge and explore the opportunities to intervene in the care of the body has enabled us to defeat diseases that were once incurable, as we continue to herald new successes. This has induced a sense that limits are not only surmountable but they can also be concealed and perhaps even suppressed.
It is therefore not surprising that the same attitude is taken toward death, that radical limit to life. Sociologists and anthropologists warn us that in our society death is often concealed and denied. It is banished from everyday social life and relegated to hospital settings where patients become part of a medical system managed by specialized professionals; it tends to be excluded from social interaction; it does not lend itself to shared ways of processing, so that mourning becomes a private matter. These are different ways of removing death from our attention and as an event that affects us.