[Professional management of death--sociocultural aspects].
UNLABELLED: During recent decades, treatment of death has been removed from the family and placed in the hands of experts and specialized institutions. More and more people die outside their homes. Our statistical analysis shows that in Switzerland between 1969 and 1986 the old people's home has replaced the private home. However the proportion of people dying in the hospital (55%) has not changed. Proceeding from these facts, we conducted a sociological research project with participant observation that explored attitudes, strategies and practices of professionals who deal closely with death and dying. Our case studies involved people working on the wards of a hospital, in a hospital mortuary, in an old people's home, in an autopsy department, in a funeral home and in a cemetery. The analysis showed that in the context of preservation of life (hospital), the consciously maintained attitude is ambivalence and an openness to various outcomes. In the context of applied science (autopsy department), the attitude is search for unequivocal exactness. In the context of loss (funeral home, cemetery), we find two different orientations among two different groups of actors. Those who deal with the practical side of death, such as the crematorium attendant, show a technical orientation, while those who deal with death's non-practical side, such as the minister, show a social and a symbolic orientation. At the points of intersection between these contexts, the actors develop complex strategies: maintenance of the past, negation of the present and anticipation of the future. CONCLUSIONS: (1.) The fight against death in the university hospital is being more and more replaced by the development of a strategy of openness.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)