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89 5 Making Sense of the Findings Wald originally intended to publish a report of her study, laying the basis for the hospice she hoped to establish and educating the public about the experiences of patients and families confronting death.She relied heavily on Glaser and Strauss,who had pioneered what they termed grounded theory in their famous study of death and dying in hospitals. That methodology sought to derive theory by analyzing patterns, concepts, and themes that emerged from close observation of qualitative data. Wald found two presses that expressed interest in her work; consulted Jeanne Quint, a nurse who had worked closely with Glaser and Strauss; and met regularly with Diers, who taught classes on research methods. Despite Diers’s constant encouragement, however, Wald rejected each of her own repeated attempts to generate categories from the diaries and transcripts. She labeled one version “trash” as soon as she finished it.1 One problem may have been confusion about the purpose of the study.Although Wald articulated her goal as understanding the wants and needs of dying people and their kin, she concentrated on needs, which she defined in therapeutic terms. She sought not only to gain insight into the experiences of the people she studied but also to encourage them to express their feelings about the approaching death. It was thus not entirely clear whether she should focus on what she learned about patients and families or 90 Prelude to Hospice on the extent to which she had been able to elicit the proper emotional response from them. Wald later explained her inability to produce a publishable report by arguing that common social science concepts distorted the material. When she used the language of patients and caregivers ,“the data fell easily into place,”but she feared criticism from medical investigators. Having worked as a research assistant in medical facilities for several years, she was well aware of the criteria physicians used to assess different studies. She must have been especially discouraged by Goldenberg’s comments that her sample was too small to produce valid information and that her data could receive “subjective analysis but not objective analysis.”2 In the end, she admitted defeat and turned her attention to planning the hospice .Now nearly half a century after Wald’s attempt to analyze her research, it is possible to determine what her findings meant with less emotional involvement. In what follows, I draw inferences from the content of what she and her colleagues discovered and analyze the assumptions and values they brought to their work. Attitudes toward Patients Despite Wald’s harsh criticism of Goldenberg’s prejudices, she clearly had her own. Like a long line of health professionals before her, she repeatedly described Italian Americans as overly “emotional ”; on at least one occasion, she used a common slur to refer to the Rossi family. Although her colleagues shared many of her views, they were more reluctant to act on the basis of imperfect knowledge. It is instructive to compare her attitude toward Italian and African Americans. As a supporter of the civil rights movement , she was extremely sensitive to any slights toward that group. She criticized Nunzio Rossi for firing a competent night nurse because she was black. Later she chastised herself when she met the well-­ dressed son of a patient and assumed he was a chauffeur . Perhaps because Italian Americans in the New Haven area opposed many local civil rights initiatives, Wald assumed they did not deserve the same courtesy. Making Sense of the Findings 91 But Italian Americans were not the only objects of her opprobrium . Her commitment to social justice also may explain why she always associated wealth with vanity, shallowness, and artificiality . A “superficial” woman, Ruth Cohen lacked the capacity to probe the painful emotions and existential issues raised by her proximity to death. Alice Hirsch’s equally “superficial country-­ club household”disqualified her from serving as a guardian for her nieces. Within a decade, social scientists would begin to discuss the importance of “positionality”—­ the recognition that knowledge is always produced in a specific location and that biases may be introduced as a result.3 In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however , few researchers interrogated their backgrounds or noted how preexisting assumptions might have colored their observations. Nevertheless, because Wald studied psychoanalysis, she might have been expected to apply contemporary theories about transference and countertransference. Those she appears to have ignored on several occasions. Wald was more sensitive to the...


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