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The word “dignity” is frequently used both in clinical and philosophical discourse when referring to and describing the ideal conditions of the patient's treatment, particularly the dying patient. An exploration of the variety of meanings associated with the word dignity will note dignity's ambiguous usage and reveal instrumental concepts needed to better understand the discourse of the dying. When applied to a critique of recent and contemporary criticisms of the medical community's handling of the dying, such concepts might provide a more coherent notion of dignity. Rather than a separate construct, a death with dignity might be viewed as an interactive process among the dying and their caretakers. Together, this interdependent amalgam engages in humanizing communication aimed toward understanding the final needs and wants of the patient.

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