Susan Orpett Long did her undergraduate work in anthropology and East Asian studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and received her PhD in anthropology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In the late 1980s she began working at John Carroll University, charged with starting up its Japanese Studies program. She served as the founding director of East Asian Studies and is professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Criminology. A cultural and medical anthropologist, she teaches a wide variety of courses in the fields of anthropology, East Asian Studies, public health, and gender studies. The recipient of research support from Fulbright, NSF, an Abe fellowship, and the Northeast Asia Area Council of the Association for Asian Studies as well as her university, Dr. Long’s research is based on fieldwork and interviews in contemporary society. She has done a number of projects in Japan and in the US on family change, care of the elderly, and the cross-cultural study of bioethical issues surrounding the end of life. She is the author of Final Days: Japanese Culture and Choice at the End of Life (University of Hawaii Press, 2005) and Family Change and the Life Course (Cornell University East Asia Papers, 1987), and edited Caring for the Elderly in Japan and the US: Practices and Policies (Routledge, 2000). She has co-edited Capturing Contemporary Japan: Differentiation and Uncertainty (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2014) with Satsuki Kawano and Glenda S. Roberts and Death in the Early Twenty-First Century: Authority, Innovation and Mortuary Rites (Palgrave, 2017) with Sebastien Boret and Sergei Kan.
A significant dilemma of advanced industrial societies is whether to limit the use of sophisticated medical machinery to keep seriously ill people alive. In both contemporary Japan and the US, the process of dying occurs in settings that include both high tech medicine and a variety of moral values. This ethnographic study will explore how patients, families, physicians, and scholars negotiate the use of medical technology for seriously ill patients. Attitude toward authority, relationships within the family, and a sense of what it means to be a living person impact end-of-life decision making. The project will also investigate the adoption and adaptation of a bioethics framework into Japanese medicine and society.