Associate Professor, Anthropology
Scott Stonington is a medical and cultural anthropologist, and an internal medicine physician. His research broadly addresses the globalization of biomedical ethics and expertise. His first project in this area focused on decision-making at the end of life in Thailand, where individuals face a complex combination of ethical frameworks generated by high-tech medical care, human-rights politics, and the metaphysical demands of dying. Dr. Stonington spent two years accompanying Thai elders at their deathbeds, documenting their children’s attempts to pay back their “debt of life” via intensive medical care, as well as the ensuing “spirit ambulance,” a rush to get patients on life-support home at the last possible moment to orchestrate the final breath in a spiritually advantageous place. Dr. Stonington’s second project in this area focuses on global debates over the use of opiates for pain management. He spent a year accompanying patients in severe pain in Northern Thailand as they navigated their suffering within a fraught ethical environment, from Thailand’s brutal drug war, to its Buddhist-based value for pain as a spiritual path, to a broader global ambivalence about how best to treat pain.
Dr. Stonington’s secondary research agenda addresses medical epistemology in the U.S., specifically how health practitioners decide what constitutes true and/or useful knowledge and how this affects patients. This work grows out of his ongoing practice as an Internal Medicine physician, both in the hospital and in primary care.
Dr. Stonington is also a classical pianist, mountain enthusiast, and father.
- Ethnography and social theory of medicine and science
- Anthropology of ethics
- Death and dying
- Southeast Asia, with a focus on Thailand
- U.S. hospital and clinic ethnography
- Program in International and Comparative Studies
- Division of General Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine
- Veterans' Affairs Medical Center, Ann Arbor
- Science, Technology and Society
- Center for Southeast Asian Studies