Dying in 559 beds: efficiency, "best buys," and the ethics of standardization in national health care

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Publication Type Journal Article
School or College College of Humanities
Department Philosophy
Creator Battin, Margaret P.
Title Dying in 559 beds: efficiency, "best buys," and the ethics of standardization in national health care
Date 1992
Description In The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, the "heavy, difficult book" begun in Rome during the winter of 1903-4 and not finished until 1910 in Paris, Rilke employs a series of rapid, jolting impressions to express his pervasive concern with death and his distress about the institutional character of death among the poor. To convey an image of poverty, he describes the worn furniture of a cheap rented room: "if I were not poor I would rent another room with furniture not so worn out, not so full of former occupants, as the furniture here. At first it really cost me an effort to lean my head on this arm-chair; for there is a certain greasy-grey hollow in its green covering, into which all heads seem to fit."1 To portray the nature of dying in medical institutions for the poor, he describes the Hotel-Dieu, the hospital for the poor, across the plaza from the Cathedral of Paris: "This excellent hotel is very ancient. Even in King Clovis' time people died in it in a number of beds. Now they are dying there in 559 beds. Factory-like, of course. Where production is so enormous an individual death is not so nicely carried out; but then that doesn't matter. It is quantity that counts."2 And to describe the actual medical course of dying among the poor and sometimes even the rich, he creates the notion of what might be called the "official" death for a given disease, that is, its standard or most likely outcome: "the wish to have a death of one's own is growing ever rarer.... One dies just as it comes; one dies the death that belongs to the disease one has, for since one has come to know all diseases, one knows, too, that the different lethal terminations belong to the diseases and not to the people; and the sick person has so to speak nothing to do."3
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah Press
First Page 313
Last Page 330
Language eng
Bibliographic Citation Battin, M. P. (1992). Dying in 559 beds: efficiency, "best buys", and the ethics of standardization in national health care in Changing to national health care: the ethical issues. edited by Robert P. Huefner and Margaret P. Battin. The University of Utah Press, 313-30.
Rights Management University of Utah Press
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 907,662 bytes
Identifier ir-main,14831
ARK ark:/87278/s6tq6jqh
Setname ir_uspace
Date Created 2012-06-13
Date Modified 2021-05-06
ID 703118
Reference URL https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6tq6jqh
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