Oral Presentation The 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023

Overcoming palliativist narratives on death – emancipation of a child in the light of a Nietzschean analysis (#14)

Pawel Krol 1 , Marilyn Moldowan 2
  1. Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada
  2. Tudor Manor Long Term Care, Okotoks, AB, Canada

This conference presents the analysis of the experience of a 10-year-old child (pseudonym Lou) who has lived all her life with her mother suffering from incurable cancer and who accompanies her on the last journey towards death in palliative care. Utilizing a Nietzschean perspective, we consider the concept of the Nietzschean ethic of life which incorporates the notion of being and acting from a knowledge created from bodily and experiential interpretation for the purpose of ultimate life realization. 

More specifically, we analyze and criticize how certain nursing practices prepare Lou for the death of her mother and show that they sometimes go through the imposition of normative perspectives – moralizing as Nietzsche would say – (voluntary or not) vs the rich knowledge of care created by Lou for years.  

Indeed, some palliative practices think of and manipulate the person, the family – Lou – and death as objects to be controlled/mastered/submitted to the palliativist/instrumental/insensitive narrative, instead of cherishing and engaging care in the light of rich creation that Lou has developed by interpreting her context, emotions, joys and sorrows in her life with her mother. Thus, we show how Lou naturally overcame these normalizations by living life fully with her mother: being involved in care, interpreting and marveling until her last breaths, notwithstanding the reification of palliative logics. 

From this rich history, we explore how Lou’s emancipation – which overcame palliativist narratives, ascetic promises of Christianity and the fatalistic concept of Western Death – parallels Nietzsche’s philosophy and ethic of life. Orientations for emancipatory and Nietzschean practices will be discussed at the end of the conference to animate a debate on authentic end of life care.