Wanting to Die: Euthanasia Discourses and the Fear of Old Age and Dependency
While many of the analyses focus on legal and moral questions of choice, independence and autonomy, sociological and social gerontological perspectives are often lacking. What needs to be asked in particular is in how far these discourses on assisted dying draw on particular conceptions of old age, dependency and the end of life. In discussions people often express their unwillingness to live a life of being a burden and of being dependent on others. This sentiment might lead to a wish to die healthily without needing care, but it also enables or facilitates a discourse in which euthanasia is imagined and talked about.
This paper draws on a Critical Discourse Analysis, carried out with 3 case studies in different European countries. In particular the analysis uses public discourses in different national newspapers to identify the associations, connotations and constructions underlying the concept of assisted dying. The paper will discuss the question whether or not the idea of euthanasia can be linked to particular constructions of the 4th age: In how far do ideas of suffering, loneliness and lost independence feature in the contemplations about euthanasia? And likewise, which consequences for the meaning of old age arise from these debates?