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Poetics of PalliationRomantic Literary Therapy, 1790-1850$
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Birttany Pladek

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781786942210

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786942210.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 22 September 2021

Thomas Lovell Beddoes’s ‘Fictitious Condition’

Thomas Lovell Beddoes’s ‘Fictitious Condition’

(p.193) Chapter Six Thomas Lovell Beddoes’s ‘Fictitious Condition’
Poetics of Palliation

Brittany Pladek

Liverpool University Press

Chapter six reads Thomas Lovell Beddoes’s 1849 gothic drama Death’s Jest-Book as a cynical insider’s take on Romantic medicine’s approach to death. A graduate of Göttingen and Würzburg medical schools, Beddoes harbored early hopes that medicine might solve the mystery of death. But he was disappointed by medicine’s failure to deliver on this promise and disillusioned by doctors who turned a profit in the burgeoning palliative care market. As doctors became more regular presences at the deathbed, patients worried that they were sacrificing agency over their own deaths for the sake of palliative ease. Beddoes satirizes these developments through a harrowing portrait of a failed suicide, denied his chosen death by the imperious decision of a medical professional. Looking ahead to health humanists who advocate for patients’ control over the stories that survive them, Beddoes offers writing as a way to preserve agency over life’s end when death cannot be prevented. When death is a ‘fictitious condition’, it cannot be coopted by rapacious physicians. Beddoes’s critique of managed death is a forward-looking defense of patients’ narrative sovereignty.

Keywords:   Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Death’s Jest-Book, palliative care, narrative medicine, medical ethics

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