Abstract

Abstract:

In A Very Easy Death Simone de Beauvoir documents the illness, hospitalization, and death of her mother Françoise. Critics in the fields of bioethics and the medical humanities have concentrated on the text’s paternalistic doctor-patient encounter, which culminates in the withholding of the cancer diagnosis from Beauvoir’s mother and entails an unnecessary medical intervention to which the patient never consents. Reviewing the text’s reception, this article argues that a focus on the ways in which it depicts breaches of several tenets of medical ethics have decontextualized A Very Easy Death and occluded the key role Beauvoir plays in the doctor-patient relationship. By situating the text within Beauvoir’s œuvre and debates in French philosophy of medicine at the time of publication, this article proposes that Beauvoir’s part in the withholding of the cancer diagnosis emerges less as a submission to medical paternalism than as a form of maternal caregiving.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6571
Print ISSN
0278-9671
Pages
pp. 420-441
Launched on MUSE
2019-12-28
Open Access
No
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