Terminal Identity. The Process of Death in the Basque Health System

Álvaro Villar Baile

The purpose of this project is to understand the construction of identity in people currently affected by a terminal diagnosis. In this reality, the terminally ill person is presented as a being difficult to think about. Unlike the sudden losses generated by the appearance of acute illnesses, which can be located in a specific space-time, the end of life manifests itself as a slight intensity that will accompany the affected person until the final achievement of death. This reality is structured through the process of investigation according to three levels of work: (i) the terminal condition as an inhabitable place, in which a unique form of agency is generated; (ii) the institutional management carried out on the condition of the terminally ill; (iii) the experience of the terminal illness as a difficult limit for the social sciences to approach. Based on this scheme, the object of research of the project is divided into three dimensions of analysis: (1) the identity of the individual affected by a terminal diagnosis, (2) the set of social actors that make up his or her social context (the health environment and the family unit), and finally; (3) the development of new theoretical tools for thinking about this process. This approach requires ethnographic fieldwork, which combines different techniques for producing information, among which participatory observation and in-depth interviews prevail, accompanied by a parallel work, of a conceptual order, consisting of addressing some of the most pressing problems for contemporary sociology (the limits of life, its management, new forms of subjectivity, agency).

Gabriel Gatti Modelos y Áreas de Investigación en Ciencias Sociales Universidad del País Vasco-Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (UPV-EHU) Gobierno Vasco