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Perhaps the most poignant image of the coronavirus pandemic captures desperate family members, with tears streaming down their faces, their noses pressed against hospital doors, barred from entry to visit their loved ones. But families are not just tragic icons at life’s end; they are often its choreographers. A large national survey that predated the pandemic found that 70 percent of Americans over age 60 who required medical decisions during the final days of their lives lacked the capacity to make them.
We are in the midst of a pandemic. But that midst differs by place. Health crises exacerbate underlying inequities, and countries vary in expertise, infrastructure, and the will to address them. As sociologists who study global heath and development across several world regions (Africa, Latin America, and Asia), we understand the importance of recognizing the multiplicity, but also the commonality, of challenges.