Press

Find me in the news, interviews, podcasts, and more below.

The Heart of Hospice Podcast

Jerry Fenter and Helen Bauer from The Heart of Hospice podcast interviewed Anita Hannig about her new book, The Day I Die.

Listen to the full episode > theheartofhospice.com


Walking toward a Good Death

James Steinberg

Brandeis Magazine interviewed Anita Hannig on her new book, The Day I Die.

Anita Hannig is an expert on how we die.

A medical and cultural anthropologist who studies life’s bookends — birth and death — she’s the author of “The Day I Die: The Untold Story of Assisted Dying in America” (Sourcebooks, 2022), a moving portrait of individuals who overcome formidable barriers to plan and carry out a medically assisted death.

Continue reading at > Brandeis.edu


When abortion is ‘an unimaginable act of surrender’

Photo by Katie Godowski on Pexels.com

“Like death, birth holds the potential for great suffering, physical and otherwise. If a pregnancy is unintended, undesired, unsupported or unviable, it can spell the prospect of a future in which neither the parent nor the child will flourish. Releasing that life is a painful, excruciating choice — and sometimes not even a choice at all.”

Continue reading at > WBUR.org


Medical aid in dying is still called ‘assisted suicide’; an anthropologist explains the problem with that

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“Equating assisted dying with suicide isn’t only antiquated or misleading – it’s actually harmful. I have spent five years shadowing patients, families and physicians involved with assisted dying in America, and I saw how damaging this conflation can be.”

Continue reading at > The Conversation.com


State of the Bay Interview

State of the Bay (KALW Public Media) had Anita Hannig on for a special segment about her new book, The Day I Die. Host Ethan Elkind had great questions in store.

Listen to the full show > kalw.org


BookPage gives The Day I Die a starred review

“In her introduction, Hannig acknowledges the anthropologist’s dilemma: The act of observation is an imperfect tool for research, since it can change both the observer and the observed. However, it can also change the reader, since it is impossible to read Hannig’s book without being moved. Regardless of your stance on assisted dying, The Day I Die will make you reconsider how dying could and should be.

Continue reading at > Bookpage.com


InsideHook names The Day I Die one of 10 books you should read in May

“If there’s a running theme in this month’s rundown of notable books, it’s the idea of people moving outside of their comfort zone. Here, you’ll find books written by people best known for their work in the film industry; you’ll also find a foray into nonfiction from an author better known for their detailed fictional trips into the future. Whether you’re looking for ruminations on aging or a thrilling trip into a human mind, our recommendations this month have you covered.”

Continue reading at > InsideHook.com


On my first Mother’s Day, I’m honoring the profound link between birth and death

“It’s easy to think of birth and death as opposites, but they are actually very similar. They are both sacred transitions from one state of being to another. Culturally, we revere one, while we shun the other. We are so afraid of the end; we do everything to stave it off as long as we can. We think our own parents will live forever, let alone ourselves.”

Continue reading at > WBUR.org


“We Have to Make a Concerted Effort to Be Less Alienated from Death and Dying”

Richard Harris interviewed Anita Hannig on her new book, The Day I Die: The Untold Story of Assisted Dying in America, for Next Avenue (the PBS publication for Baby Boomers). “When I see the way that we’re tumbling back into life as it was before the pandemic, I don’t know that we’ve really thought critically about death,” Hannig says. “We just have this big fear-based relationship with death and it’s not lifting the curtain, really. I think people are thrilled to have escaped the pandemic. They see themselves on the other end of that mostly unscathed.”

Continue reading at > Nextavenue.org


Allow terminally ill patients from out of state to access aid-in-dying

Donna Grethen / Op-Art

“Last week, Oregon became the first state to stop enforcing its residency requirement for medical assistance in dying. Following a lawsuit brought by an Oregon physician and Compassion and Choices, an advocacy group campaigning for better end-of-life options, the state settled in favor of ending the restriction. The case was prompted by a southwest Washington resident who felt the care he was looking for was not easily available and sought help in nearby Oregon. For the first time since 1997, terminally ill patients from out of state can now avail themselves of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.”

Continue reading at > SeattleTimes.com


Too many Americans still can’t talk about death, even after 15 months of the pandemic

The Boston Globe interviewed Anita Hannig on the connection between Covid-19 and our collective mortality. “One of the ironies of this death-saturated pandemic, Hannig says, is that the average American has in some ways become further removed from death. Restricted from hospitals and nursing homes, family members have been robbed of those intimate moments we used to take for granted — holding the hand of a dying relative or bearing witness at the cemetery as a loved one is lowered into the earth.”

Continue reading at > Bostonglobe.com


The coronavirus is forcing Americans to reckon with death like never before

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Insider interviewed Anita Hannig for a piece on how the COVID-19 pandemic is shifting Americans’ relationship to death. While the pandemic’s social distancing requirements have radically altered the way people mourn, this moment has also pushed people to grapple with death in ways they might never have otherwise.

Continue Reading at > Insider.com


Dying Virtually: Pandemic Drives Medically Assisted Deaths Online

The late Youssef Cohen moved from New York to Oregon in 2016 because of its aid-in-dying law. During the pandemic, assisted dying for terminal patients has gone online. John Moore/Getty Images

“The coronavirus has stripped many of a say in the manner and timing of their own deaths, but for some terminally ill people wishing to die, a workaround exists. Medically assisted deaths in America are increasingly taking place online, from the initial doctor’s visit to the ingestion of life-ending medications.”

Continue reading at > The Conversation


COVID-19 Won’t Let Us Forget Our Maddening, Precious Mortality

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“Every morning, Americans wake up to news of a rising death toll from the coronavirus. We hit the refresh button and the numbers snake upward. Right about now, many of us might wish that we could trade places with a hydra — the famed aquatic creature that scientists believe to be immortal — even for a bit, while we catch our breath.”

Continue Reading at > WBUR.org


We are all living with serious illness now

Image credit: Copyright by Michael Lane @differentcreatures

“In the midst of this global health crisis, it’s easy to forget that there are still those among us living with serious illness. As a palliative care physicians and a medical anthropologists, we know that living with serious illness often means coming to terms with difficult information. It means dealing with uncertainty about the future, making it hard to plan ahead. And it means constantly balancing feelings of hope and despair, even vacillating between the two in a single moment.”

Continue Reading at > KevinMD.com


The Complicated Science of a Medically Assisted Death

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“Most people probably imagine a medically assisted death, while emotionally difficult, to be technically straightforward: ingest the medication and die. The reality, however, is far messier. There is no magic pill that will end a person’s life, and physicians aren’t taught how to end someone’s life in medical school.”

Continue Reading at > Quillette


Author(iz)ing Death: Medical Aid-in-Dying and the Morality of Suicide

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In 2017, Oregon marked the twentieth anniversary of enacting the Death with Dignity Act, allowing terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients to end their life by ingesting a lethal medication prescribed by their physician. In U.S. public discourse, medical aid-in-dying is frequently equated with the terminology and morality of suicide, much to the frustration of those who use and administer the law. This article reflects on the stakes of maintaining a distinction between a medically assisted death and the most common cultural category for self-inflicted death—suicide.

Continue Reading at > Cultural Anthropology


Pandemic narrows Americans’ cultural distance from death and dying

St. Mary Parish’s cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia, is seen in a 2017 file photo. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

The National Catholic Reporter interviewed Anita Hannig for an article on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our relationship to death and dying. The pandemic is “really going to impact the way that we’re able to find closure in the face of death, which is something that we already fear so much,” says Hannig.

Continue Reading at > National Catholic Reporter


The website that helps you plan for death finds success with millennials

Lantern is a website that helps you figure out what to do when someone dies — and plan for your own death. Credit: Bob Al-Greene

Mashable interviewed Anita Hannig for an article on Lantern, a website that wants to make planning for death completely normal. “A lot of people still think that if you’re talking about death too much, there’s an eerie way you’re bringing it about,” Hannig says. “Having a website like this is making death so much more manageable so that you can focus on the actual process of death and dying when it happens.”

Continue Reading at > Mashable.


Assisted Dying Is Not the Easy Way Out

“One in every five Americans now lives in a state with legal access to a medically assisted death. In theory, assisted dying laws allow patients with a terminal prognosis to hasten the end of their life, once their suffering has overcome any desire to live. While these laws may make the process of dying less painful for some, they don’t make it easier. Of the countries that have aid-in-dying laws, the U.S. has the most restrictive. Intended to reduce unnecessary suffering, the laws can sometimes have the opposite effect.”

Continue Reading at > The Conversation


How Our Assisted Dying Laws Work Against Some People Who Suffer The Most

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“No matter where you stand on the right to die, the recent New York Times feature on Marieke Vervoort’s life or death decision likely touched a chord. After years of blinding pain brought on by a degenerative muscle disease, the Paralympic Belgian medalist opted for a medically assisted death. Though Vervoort’s struggles transcend borders, her ability to die this way does not.”

Continue Reading at > WBUR.org


Hooker Distinguished Lectures at McMaster University

On October 29-30, 2019, Anita Hannig delivered two lectures as part of her appointment as Harry Lyman Hooker Distinguished Visiting Professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Her first talk, “Science and Sanctity,” took place in the Department of Religious Studies. She delivered the second talk, “The Art of Dying,” in the Medical School.

Continue Reading at > McMaster University


The Farewell

USA TODAY interviewed Anita Hannig for an article that discusses different cultural expectations around sharing someone’s terminal prognosis. “There’s this idea of ‘filial debt,’ that you owe your mother and father for taking care of you all your life, so when that person gets sick, the family steps up to take care of them,” Hannig says. “These decisions (about health care) then become distributed among the family, and the idea of autonomy gets shifted over to the relatives.”

Continue Reading at > USA Today


Aid-in-Dying Symposium in Montana

Ten years after the landmark Baxter v. Montana decision, the School of Law at the University of Montana convened a symposium on aid-in-dying, featuring the original plaintiffs and one of Baxter’s daughters. Judge Nelson, one of the Montana Supreme Court judges, gave the keynote address.


Interview with Cultural Anthropology

Photo by Matheus Ferrero.

Cultural Anthropology interviews Anita Hannig on how religion, ethics, and gender dynamics intersect with issues of medical aid-in-dying in the United States. They also talk about some pedagogical strategies for teaching death and dying to college students.

Continue Reading at > Society for Cultural Anthropology


Flash Forward Podcast — Bodies: Ghostbot

Anita Hannig appears on this episode of Flash Forward, a podcast about the future hosted by Rose Eveleth. Check out the episode on Ghostbots here. “Today we travel to a future where dying isn’t the end. What if you could live on as a simulation? A bot that knows everything you’ve ever said, and can pretend to be you?”

Listen to Podcast at > Flash Forward


How Death Disappeared from Halloween

On Halloween, Anita Hannig is quoted in this Washington Post article on how a genuine engagement with death and mortality has all but disappeared from our modern iteration of this holiday.

Continue Reading at > Washington Post


Event at BRIC House: What the Dying Teach the Living


Long Before the End Podcast Series: How America Merchandises Immortality

Dr. Dale Atkins and Prof. Anita Hannig share their thoughts on consumerism, death denial, and death literacy. Episode Three: White Noise: “How America Merchandises Immortality”.

Listen to Podcast at > Bevival


Meet the Authors at Porter Square Books

Anita Hannig and George Paul Meiu will be discussing their new books at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on November 2nd from 7-8pm. Free to the public.

Continue Reading at > Porter Square Books


Death and Dying 101

Students from the author’s class on death and dying explore Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Anita Hannig

 “Back in February, on a chilly, windy afternoon in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group of college students and I stood face-to-face with three ash-covered cremation furnaces at Mount Auburn Cemetery, the oldest garden cemetery in the United States. As we squeezed into the crematory, one of the students asked Joe—the no-nonsense custodian—whether we could peek inside one of the furnaces. ‘Not right now,’ Joe said, shaking his head. ‘There’s someone in there.’”

Continue Reading at > Sapiens.com


New Books Network: Beyond Surgery

Anita Hannig’s first book, Beyond Surgery: Injury, Healing, and Religion at an Ethiopian Hospital (University of Chicago Press, 2017) is an in-depth ethnography of two fistula repair and rehabilitation centers in northern Ethiopia. Focusing on the juxtaposition of culture, religion, and medicine, Hannig turns the heroic narrative of surgery on its head to expose the realities of life for women treated in these centers. Utilizing first-person interviews, she shows the human face to surgery and its aftermath. Moving beyond the easy and cathartic narrative promulgated by the media and non-profit fundraisers, Hannig shows the complex reality of life post-surgery. Hannig’s book is a testament to the importance of good, long-term research in the arena of global public health.

Listen to the Interview at > New Books Network


This Anthro Life Podcast: On the Craft of Writing w/ Dr. Anita Hannig

How do academics write for a variety of audiences? Is routine a necessary part of creating? How many times will Ryan mention Stephen King? In this episode of This Anthro Life, Adam and Ryan talk with Anita Hannig of Brandeis University about the writing process behind her new book, Beyond Surgery: Injury, Healing, and Religion at an Ethiopian Hospital.  While they are looking at writing as a craft from the perspective of anthropologists, Ryan, Adam, and Anita draw on a variety of perspectives outside the discipline to suggest some tips for writing routine, reaching a broad audience, and writing ethnography.

Listen to Podcast at > This Anthro Life


Now Available from The University of Chicago Press: “Beyond Surgery: Injury, Healing, and Religion at an Ethiopian Hospital”

Over the past few decades, maternal childbirth injuries have become a potent symbol of Western biomedical intervention in Africa, affecting over one million women across the global south. Western-funded hospitals have sprung up, offering surgical sutures that ostensibly allow women who suffer from obstetric fistula to return to their communities in full health. Journalists, NGO staff, celebrities, and some physicians have crafted a stock narrative around this injury, depicting afflicted women as victims of a backward culture who have their fortunes dramatically reversed by Western aid. With Beyond Surgery, medical anthropologist Anita Hannig unsettles this picture for the first time and reveals the complicated truth behind the idea of biomedical intervention as quick-fix salvation.

Through her in-depth ethnography of two repair and rehabilitation centers operating in Ethiopia, Hannig takes the reader deep into a world inside hospital walls, where women recount stories of loss and belonging, shame and delight. As she chronicles the lived experiences of fistula patients in clinical treatment, Hannig explores the danger of labeling “culture” the culprit, showing how this common argument ignores the larger problem of insufficient medical access in rural Africa. Beyond Surgery portrays the complex social outcomes of surgery in an effort to deepen our understanding of medical missions in Africa, expose cultural biases, and clear the path toward more effective ways of delivering care to those who need it most.

Winner of the 2018 Eileen Basker Memorial Prize, Society for Medical Anthropology, American Anthropological Association.

Available for order online on the University of Chicago Press website or via Amazon

Reviews

Donald L. Donham, University of California, Davis

“The genius of ethnography often involves finding a practice or idea the examination of which conjures up unexpected larger insights. Hannig finds just this kind of topic in fistula repair surgery in northern Ethiopia—both for the cultural worlds of women patients and foreign missionary doctors. Beyond Surgery is a major achievement of writing and analysis.”

Jean Comaroff, Harvard University

“In this incisive and immensely insightful study, Hannig moves beyond the hype of heroic surgery to examine the complex social, moral, and aesthetic landscape—the interplay of science and sanctity, loss and recovery—that comprises the intricate work of care, here as everywhere.”

Stacey Langwick, Cornell University

“Hannig has written an important and deeply touching testament to the practical importance of long-term careful ethnographic research in global health. Beyond Surgery has profound implications for debates on global health disparities. It deserves to be read by anthropologists and practitioners alike.”

Purchase Book at > University of Chicago Press website or via Amazon