Making death ‘good’: instructional tales for dying in newspaper accounts of Jade Goody’s death
Article first published online: 8 AUG 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness © 2012 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Sociology of Health & Illness
Volume 35, Issue 3, pages 419–433, March 2013
How to Cite
Frith, H., Raisborough, J. and Klein, O. (2013), Making death ‘good’: instructional tales for dying in newspaper accounts of Jade Goody’s death. Sociology of Health & Illness, 35: 419–433. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2012.01492.x
- Issue published online: 28 MAR 2013
- Article first published online: 8 AUG 2012
- good and bad death;
- Jade Goody;
- cultural representations;
- palliative care;
- moral accountability
Facilitating a ‘good’ death is a central goal for hospices and palliative care organisations. The key features of such a death include an acceptance of death, an open awareness of and communication about death, the settling of practical and interpersonal business, the reduction of suffering and pain, and the enhancement of autonomy, choice and control. Yet deaths are inherently neither good nor bad; they require cultural labour to be ‘made over’ as good. Drawing on media accounts of the controversial death of UK reality television star Jade Goody, and building on existing analyses of her death, we examine how cultural discourses actively work to construct deaths as good or bad and to position the dying and those witnessing their death as morally accountable. By constructing Goody as bravely breaking social taboos by openly acknowledging death, by contextualising her dying as occurring at the end of a life well lived and by emphasising biographical continuity and agency, newspaper accounts serve to position themselves as educative rather than exploitative, and readers as information-seekers rather than ghoulishly voyeuristic. We argue that popular culture offers moral instruction in dying well which resonates with the messages from palliative care.