Listed in Issue 191


STONINGTON, Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA. describes a new form of clinical subjectivity in Thailand, emerging out of public debate over medical care at the end of life.


Following the controversial high-tech death of the famous Buddhist monk Buddhadasa, many began to denounce modern death as falling prey to social ills in Thai society, such as consumerism, technology-worship, and the desire to escape the realities of existence. As a result, governmental and non-governmental organizations have begun to focus on the end-of-life as a locus for transforming Thai society.


Moving beyond the classic outward focus of the medical gaze, they have begun teaching clinicians and patients to gaze inward instead, to use the suffering inherent in medicine and illness to face the nature of existence and attain inner wisdom.


In this article, the author describe the emergence of this new gaze and its major conceptual components, including a novel idea of what it means to be 'human', as well as a series of technologies used to craft this humanity: confession, 'facing suffering', and untying 'knots' in the heart.


The author also describes how this new subjectivity has begun to change the long-stable Buddhist concept of death as taking place at a moment in time, giving way for a new concept of 'end-of-life', an elongated interval to be experienced, studied, and used for inner wisdom.


Stonington S. Facing death, gazing inward: end-of-life and the transformation of clinical subjectivity in Thailand. Source Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry. 35(2): 113-33. Jun 2011.

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