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The Last Dance

Encountering Death And Dying

By Lynne Ann Despelder and Albert Lee Strickland

Sixth Edition
Published by McGraw-Hill Higher Education
Publication date: July, 2001
ISBN: 0767421620 (hardback)


This popular thanatology textbook for college-level death and dying courses is written for a general audience. It gives a comprehensive and readable introduction to the main issues in contemporary thanatology. Over the course of six editions this book has become a well-rounded introductory text that covers all the bases in enough detail to wet the appetite of serious students.

The study of death is by nature interdisciplinary, and the book includes contributions from medicine, the humanities, and the social sciences. One of its most valuable features is it's well-chosen bibliography and suggestions for further study through lists of recommended reading at the end of each chapter. There are two companion volumes:

The textbook tries to balance academic intellectual content with examples and anecdotes to bring emotion and compassion into the picture. It's well-illustrated with photos and boxed illustrations that complement the text in a standard textbook format.

Like most textbooks, it makes an effort to distance itself from taking a position on some of the controversial aspects of modern death care. Chapters on the health care system note major issues such as euthanasia and definition of death but leave it to the reader to make a decision about the moral implications of technological advances.

The sixth edition places more emphasis on cross-cultural perspectives on death and the diversity of ethnic traditions in heterogenous modern societies. Other chapters are devoted to grief, bereavement, funeral practices, suicide, attitudes about immortality and the afterlife, and near-death experiences.

Overall, it's a good choice as a single-text introduction to the field of death and dying.

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