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The Problem of the Subject: The Politics of Post-mortem Rights in the Aftermath of Drug-related Deaths
journal contributionposted on 2021-11-10, 02:41 authored by Kathryn SeearKathryn Seear, Suzanne FraserSuzanne Fraser, A Madden
In recent years, drug-related deaths have soared around the world. Some of these are overdose deaths, some are due to state violence as part of the ‘war on drugs’. Images of these deaths are often widely circulated in mainstream and social media. They are mobilised by anti-drug campaigners, anti-prohibitionists, family members seeking to memorialise their loved ones, and researchers. In all of these instances, of course, there is no question about whether the dead can consent to the sharing of such images, for they are no longer alive to do so. Where consent is not possible, how should the sharing of such images be approached? This article explores this issue. We focus on two concepts often mobilised when assessing the validity of post-mortem rights claims: shame, and what we call dignity-as-reputation. Through an analysis of two case studies of drug-related death, we explain why these concepts are an inadequate framework for assessing what is at stake within the specific and unique context of drug-related deaths. We argue that posthumanist legal theory and feminist scholarship on emotions provide an alternative foundation for legal approaches to images of death, and argue that post-mortem rights should be reworked.