Conference article

On the Need for a Theological Conversation about the Future of Death: A Response to Markus Zimmermann-Acklin

Neil Messer
Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Winchester, UK

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Published in: Proceedings from the Societas Ethica Annual Conference 2011; The Quest for perfection. The Future of Medicine/Medicine of the future; August 25-28; 2011; Universita della Svizzera Italiana; Lugano; Switzerland

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 74:7, p. 85-89

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Published: 2013-01-28


ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


A response is presented to Markus Zimmermann-Acklin’s paper ‘The quest for a perfect death. Thoughts on death and dying in the future’. Some critical questions are raised about his analysis of present trends and the dystopic future scenarios that he envisages; in particular; it is suggested that the ‘palliative care’ scenario represents a distortion of the ethos and practice of palliative care; which – rightly understood and practised – can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. The ‘realistic or desirable future scenario’ advocated by Dr Zimmermann-Acklin in preference to his dystopic scenarios is supported; but it is argued that the ars moriendi and ars vivendi; which are central to that scenario; are only intelligible against a transcendent horizon that has to a greater or lesser extent disappeared from view in many Western societies. This suggests that if our societies are to have a serious conversation about the goods at stake in our practices of death and dying; that conversation will need to be a theological one.


Death; dying; <em>ars moriendi; ars vivendi</em>; theological ethics


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