Society’s Contributions to Defensiveness UNTIL now we have looked at the individual human reaction to death and dying. If we now take a look at our society, we may want to ask ourselves what happens to man in a society bent on ignoring or avoiding death. What factors, if any, contribute to an increasing anxiety in relation to death? What happens in a changing field of medicine, where we have to ask ourselves whether medicine is to remain a humanitarian and respected profession or a new but depersonalized science in the service of prolonging life rather than diminishing human suffering? Where the medical students have a choice of dozens of lectures on RNA and DNA but less experience in the simple doctor-patient relationship that used to be the alphabet for every successful family physician? What happens in a society that puts more emphasis on IQ and class-standing than on simple matters of tact, sensitivity, perceptiveness, and good taste in the management of the suffering? In a professional society where the young medical student is admired for his research and laboratory work during the first years of medical school while he is at a loss for words when a patient asks him a simple question? If we could combine the teaching of the new scientific and technical achievements with equal emphasis on interpersonal human relationships we would indeed make progress, but not if the new knowledge is conveyed to the student at the price of less and less interpersonal contact. What is going to become of a society which puts the emphasis on numbers and masses, rather than on the

individual-where medical schools hope to enlarge their classes, where the trend is away from the teacher-student contact, which is replaced by closed-circuit television teaching, recordings, and movies, all of which can teach a greater number of students in a more depersonalized manner?