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Patienthood, Body, and Life Span

Approaching Death in the Carakasaṃhitā

In: Asian Medicine
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  • 1 St. John’s CollegeSanta Fe, NMUSA
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Abstract

Changes in medical technologies have increased questions about how best to handle end-of-life care at the same time as raising questions about the extent to which death can be held off or the life span extended. This article is an offshoot from a broader examination of medical approaches to the dying in two South Asian medical traditions. In this piece, tensions between letting go of life and extending it are illuminated by an exploration of patienthood and body in the context of dying via the Carakasaṃhitā, a foundational text of Ayurveda. These tensions continue in the tradition and speak to questions raised in biomedicine as well. An acknowledgment of the limits of medicine comes up against the desire to continually do more, to cure us of our mortality. Much work has been done on the concept of the body in South Asian medicines, but little has focused on the stage of dying.

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