(Monday) 09:30 - 11:00(GMT+00:00) View in my time
Speakers for this event
Francis Gene-Rowe & Erica Masserano
Francis Gene-Rowe & Erica Masserano
Passing Latitudes: What kinds of maps might be needed to navigate the end of a life? What does time feel like when we’re dying, caring, hoping or grieving? What pasts and futures are made unavailable to us by contingency, and how do we make them available again? Passing Latitudes is a board game which attempts to model experiences and affects around death and dying through the association and disassociation of events, feelings and interruptions. Through player collaboration, the game becomes a space in which states that may be difficult to access or process can be discovered, witnessed and held. The game’s aesthetics are rooted in star and constellation motifs, as well as the metaphor of illness as shipwreck (c.f. A. W. Frank, The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics, 1995). At the start of a game of Passing Latitudes, players select from a list of positions representing people and roles in an end of life scenario (Dying, Caring, Loving, Knowing, etc.). Together, they play through three phases (Dusk, Dawn and Night), each taking place on a different board. Players take it in turns to play cards drawn from two decks, an Events deck and a Connections deck, in so doing creating a matrix of interrelations, caesuras and endings. The game changes pace to allow for a variety of experiences of time, with play proceeding in a non-linear fashion, such that connections and interruptions emerge both ‘horizontally’ within a single board and ‘vertically’ between different boards.
The End-of-Life Colours And The Meanings of Life, Death And Old Age: There is a substantial body of research on the so-called Third Age, yet, the last stage in life, commonly known as the Fourth Age, has been masked by the model of successful ageing. Since this period in life is often linked to dependency, care and the loss of mobility and cognitive capacities, it has even been considered a ‘black hole’ in ageing studies (Gilleard and Higgs, 2010), which reveals the cultural failure to see the Fourth Age beyond the narrative of decline (Gullette 2004). This paper discusses the complexities of ageing, care, and death as reflected in Erica Jong’s novel, Fear of Dying (2015). Jong’s latest fictional work to date uncovers the aspects associated with the Fourth Age and, at the same time, reveals new ways of understanding human nature, death and ageing. The author highlights that although death ends physical life, it does not necessarily end a life story or a relationship. By using literary gerontology as the framework of this study, this paper shows how literary narratives can help us explore and deal with the often hidden intersections of care, intergenerational relationships, old age, and death.
The land of eternal waiting: an overview of the use of psychedelics as a treatment for existential distress at end-of-life. Since the 1960’s, when the first clinical trial investigating the therapeutic use of LSD in patients with terminal cancer was undertaken by Eric Kast, several studies have been carried out on the potential of classical psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin for the treatment of existential distress. After a hiatus of about twenty-five years, in which regulatory restrictions on the use of these substances made their use in clinical trials increasingly difficult, since 2006 there has been a “renaissance” in the scientific interest in serotonergic compounds for the treatment of a variety of pathologies including treatment-resistant depression (Carhart-Harris 2016), PTSD (Bouso et al. 2008), and addiction (Bogenschutz et al. 2015) amongst others. This growing interest has also brought a renewed enthusiasm for the potential of psychoactive compounds for the treatment of sustained existential distress, depression, and anxiety in patients with a terminal illness diagnosis. The necessity for new solutions to the various psychosocial problems of dying has been spurred by a growing consensus in palliative care that existential distress –manifested as feelings of hopelessness, a loss of meaning, and a loss of will to live— is a core determinant of suffering in patients diagnosed with a life-threatening illness (cf. Reiche et al. 2018), and has been consistently associated with a low quality of life (Breitbart et al. 2005), poor treatment adherence (Arrieta et al. 2013), and higher mortality rates (Brown et al. 2013). However, to date, very few psychotherapeutic interventions are available for the treatment of existential distress, and no pharmacological treatments at all have so far been developed. The growing interest in psychedelics as a potentially powerful therapy for the treatment of existential anxiety thus offers new and exciting possibilities for researchers. Recent double-blind studies, such as those led by Charles Grob, who administered psilocybin to patients with advanced stage cancer, have found remarkable reductions in terminal-illness related anxiety three months post-session, and a reduction of depressive symptoms by nearly 30% one month after the treatment session. Peter Gasser, who carried out a study of the effect of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in patients with a life- threatening disease, also observed typically long-lasting reductions in general anxiety, as well as fear of death post-treatment, whilst the majority of patients reported qualitative improvements in mood, physical wellbeing, facilitated access to emotions, and enhanced introspective abilities (Gasser et al. 2014). In this informal presentation, a general overview of the history, therapeutic potential, and current state of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of existential distress at the end-of-life is proposed. As a relatively new and niche field within the academic study of death and dying, this talk will invite the listener to take an active role in the discussion of the potential of psychedelic therapy in their own end-of-life care practice, as well as its potential risks, whilst their role as a “consciousness expanding” alternative to the “consciousness restricting” use of narcotics in pain-management at the end of life will also be discussed.