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The purpose of this article is to discuss the portrayal of death in modern North American society in the highest circulating English language magazines available in Canada and published either in the United States or in Canada, in 1991, 1996, and 2001. The prevailing underlying frame/discourse of which there were a number of sub-variants, was the notion of the control of death. Stories focused on people taking control of death by 1) passive and active euthanasia, 2) suicide with political and social motivations and messages, 3) suicide deaths among celebrities and the families of celebrities, 4) dramatic murders, 5) issues in the “right to die movement,” and 6) new techniques and technologies for life extension. There was a very small minority of articles on miscellaneous issues such as death rates and their variation across geographic region, social class, environmental condition, and cause. The article ends with discussion of the ways that this portrayal of death obfuscates the real lack of control most North Americans, particularly those who are poor or “racialized,” have over the timing, or circumstances of death. In addition, as a critical discourse analysis, it discusses the interests that are served by this perspective.


This article was originally published in Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 52(2): 153-167. © 2006 Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. Systematic or multiple reproduction or distribution to multiple locations via electronic or other means is prohibited and is subject to penalties under law.