Postmortale Menschenwürde zwischen Pietät und Professionalität

Plädoyer für eine Schweigeminute im klinischen Alltag


  • Katharina Fürholzer



postmortal patient care, coping with death, piety, posthumous dignity, silence, literature and medicine


Death is an inevitable part of clinical practice and affects, in its very own way, not only relatives and friends but also those who took care of a patient in the very last moments of his or her life. Considering that time is a more than limited resource in Western health care systems, it is, however, all too often challenging for the clinical team to pause and pay respect to the life that has passed and the unfathomability of human finiteness. While in Western cultures, silence is commonly regarded as a (ritualized) expression of respect in the context of death, in clinical everyday life it is thus no matter of course to meet the end of human life not only on a physical but also metaphysical level. Instead, death tends to become drowned out by a strident clinging to the daily routines of patient care, in the course of which accompanying noises may turn into a roaring (inhuman) cacophony which may not do justice to the dignity of the dead, the relatives and the clinic team. With that said, the article at hand focusses on forms of bidding farewell in clinical patient care, with an emphasis on postmortem silence. Drawing on examples out of literature, medical ethics, and the law, I will plead for a minute’s silence in everyday clinical practice, as a possible means to interrupt the noise of medicine in the immediate aftermath of death in order to honor the dignity of both the dead and the living.




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