Forecasting and foreclosing futures: The temporal dissonance of advance care directives

from Social Science & Medicine at on August 30, 2018 at 01:52PM

Publication date: Available online 29 August 2018

Source: Social Science & Medicine

Author(s): Tanya Zivkovic


Advance care directives situate persons as rational and self-determining actors who can make anticipatory plans about their futures. This paper critically examines how people interpret individual and future-oriented approaches to medical decision-making with limited access to information and knowledge, and reduced opportunities to prepare and document their care preferences. Based on ethnographic research with Asian migrant families living in Adelaide, South Australia (August 2015–July 2018), it reveals a discord between planning for a finite future and the contingencies and continuities of social life. It unsettles the detached reasoning that is privileged in end of life decision-making and reveals limitations to “do-it-yourself” approaches to advance care directives which, it will be argued, not only forecasts potential futures but also forecloses them. Taking Derrida’s critique of death and decision-making as a point of departure, it develops the concept of temporal dissonance as a theoretical framework to articulate the tensions that are constituted in advance care directives. The paper suggests that attention to temporal incongruities may help to shed light on the many complex interpretations of advance care directives and the difficulties of promoting them in diverse contexts.