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Death and the Environment: An Ecological Perspective of End-of-Life Medicine

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Abstract:

Current medical practices in the United States rely heavily on material inputs that have diverse impacts on ecosystems and human health throughout their life cycle. The aim of this study was to examine the environmental and human health impacts that result from the practice of medicine—the materially intensive decision-making that happens at the patient-clinician interface—with a focus on end-of-life medicine for cancer patients as an extreme example of intense material intervention. We present a qualitative analysis of the sustainability of common medical practices in three end-of-life inpatient units (conventional cancer unit, palliative care unit, and hospice unit) drawn from 255 hours of ethnographic observations and 36 hours of semi-structured interviews. We identified three major categories of human and environmental impacts at our three research sites: the manufacture, procurement, and disposal of medical supplies; occupational and community exposure to hazardous materials; and pharmaceutical control and disposal practices. Our work shows the ways production/use/disposal practices can magnify or aggregate ecological impacts both within healthcare facilities and in communities beyond. Findings suggest that a more ecologically-minded approach to medical care could continue to provide benefits to individual patients, while also being supportive of the health of the broader ecological and human community.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

health (84), environment (69), medic (63), care (53), wast (51), impact (43), human (40), dispos (39), patient (35), practic (32), unit (27), pharmaceut (27), exposur (26), suppli (26), communiti (25), healthcar (25), life (25), research (25), nurs (24), al (23), resourc (23),
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Association:
Name: American Sociological Association Annual Meeting
URL:
http://www.asanet.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p564463_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Vatovec, Christine., Senier, Laura. and Bell, Michael. "Death and the Environment: An Ecological Perspective of End-of-Life Medicine" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Colorado Convention Center and Hyatt Regency, Denver, CO, Aug 16, 2012 <Not Available>. 2014-12-12 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p564463_index.html>

APA Citation:

Vatovec, C. , Senier, L. and Bell, M. M. , 2012-08-16 "Death and the Environment: An Ecological Perspective of End-of-Life Medicine" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Colorado Convention Center and Hyatt Regency, Denver, CO Online <PDF>. 2014-12-12 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p564463_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Current medical practices in the United States rely heavily on material inputs that have diverse impacts on ecosystems and human health throughout their life cycle. The aim of this study was to examine the environmental and human health impacts that result from the practice of medicine—the materially intensive decision-making that happens at the patient-clinician interface—with a focus on end-of-life medicine for cancer patients as an extreme example of intense material intervention. We present a qualitative analysis of the sustainability of common medical practices in three end-of-life inpatient units (conventional cancer unit, palliative care unit, and hospice unit) drawn from 255 hours of ethnographic observations and 36 hours of semi-structured interviews. We identified three major categories of human and environmental impacts at our three research sites: the manufacture, procurement, and disposal of medical supplies; occupational and community exposure to hazardous materials; and pharmaceutical control and disposal practices. Our work shows the ways production/use/disposal practices can magnify or aggregate ecological impacts both within healthcare facilities and in communities beyond. Findings suggest that a more ecologically-minded approach to medical care could continue to provide benefits to individual patients, while also being supportive of the health of the broader ecological and human community.


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