As You Lay Dying: End-of-life doulas imagining a ‘good’ death at the interstices of public and private care?
Relations of power, notions of personhood and belonging are processes closely intertwined with care practices and particularly vulnerable and magnified during the end-of-life phase. Support during the end-of-life phase and education about death care practices by associations and non- profit organizations have seen a surge in recent decades in the United States, bringing about a new role within U.S. American end-of-life care: the end-of-life (EOL) doula. These doulas propose a client-centered ‘holistic’ non-medical approach to premortem and postmortem care and move between institutions and the home, dichotomies of private and public, kin/non-kin and the medical and non-medical. Asking how EOL doulas understand ‘good dying’ and translate that into their practices in institutional (hospice) and private settings, I aim at elucidating negotiations of ‘good’ care in the face of actual differences. I intend to research this question through following their various practices that range from the beginning of the end-of-life process, including ritualistic practices, legacy work, spiritual care, vigil and funeral planning, to washing and dressing the body and caring for kin-members through grief work.