Medical eschatologies: The Christian spirit of hospital protocol

Jean M. Langford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


If much has been written of the forms of bodiliness reinforced by hospitals, less attention has been paid to the medicalization of the soul. The medical management of death institutionalizes divisions between body and soul, and matter and spirit, infusing end-of-life care with latent Christian theological presumptions. The invisibility of these presumptions is partly sustained by projecting religiosity on those who endorse other cosmologies, while retaining for medicine a mask of secular science. Stories of conflict with non-Christian patients force these presumptions into visibility, suggesting alternative ethics of care and mourning rooted in other understandings. In this article, I explore one such story. Considering the story as an allegory for how matter and spirit figure in contemporary postmortem disciplines, I suggest that it exposes both the operation of a taboo against mixing material and spiritual agendas, and an assumption that appropriate mourning is oriented toward symbolic homage, rather than concern for the material welfare of the dead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-246
Number of pages11
JournalMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 26 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Taylor & Francis.


  • Biomedicine
  • Christianity
  • Death
  • End-of-life care
  • South Asia
  • United States


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