Death and Dying and the Social Work Role
The need to examine death and dying as social workers and as human beings exists due to dramatic changes in the last century in the way peopIe die. While it is easy to romanticize the notion of dying quickly and at horne, there is no going back. Nor would many ofus wish to revert to a time when people died not just quickly, but relatively young and often from bacterial infections now controlled by antibiotics. The downside of living longer is living those latter years with chronic illnesses. And the real horror is the possibility of lingering those last days and months while hooked to ventilators, heart monitors, feeding tubes, and intravenous lines. The risk of such a death is high; up to 75% of people spend their last days in a hospital or medical center (NCHS, 1991). Advances in medical technology now chal1enge us as a nation to define quality end-of-life care and the right to deny heroie life-prolonging interventions.