Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Sara E. Green, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margarethe Kusenbach, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lori Roscoe, Ph.D.


Culture, Symbolic Codes, Emotions, Disability, Policy


Public policy discussions can be viewed as empirical windows into broadly shared culturalvalues and emotions of the social contexts in which the policy discussions take place. This project is a narrative analysis of the public debate on physician-assisted death (PAD), drawing from three data sources: newspaper articles, the websites of social movement organizations, and testimonies from a state legislative hearing. This analysis explores ways in which social actors deploy personal stories that contribute to shape the policy-making process by appealing to cultural beliefs and broadly shared emotions. The findings of this project constitute a contribution to the study of emotions as cultural phenomena, to the use of narrative analysis in the study of public policy, and to the adoption of constructionist approaches in the study of social problems and health and illness. A constructionist lens allows for the observation of not only differences but also commonalities in the competing narratives, helping to fill a gap in the literature on PAD, which is dominated by one-sided positivistic and critical approaches, predominantly within the areas of legal, biomedical, and disability studies.