Dying Young, Dying Poor: A Sociological Examination of Existential Suffering among Low-Socioeconomic Status Patients

Academic Article


  • Palliating the whole person requires that medicine attend more fully to the phenomenon of existential suffering. The role of social factors, in particular, is often overlooked in attempts to understand why end-of-life suffering does not always respond to physiologic, psychological, and spiritual interventions. Using qualitative data from in-depth interviews with 33 low socioeconomic status (SES) terminally ill patients with cancer, I examine how a sociological framework can provide insights on existential suffering at the end of life. Specifically, I discuss how dying "off time" in the life course, being exposed to the illness trajectories of others, and experiencing social isolation and social death contribute to existential suffering among the terminally ill.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Williams BR
  • Start Page

  • 27
  • End Page

  • 37
  • Volume

  • 7
  • Issue

  • 1