The return of the living dead: agency lost and found?

Carmelo Aquilina and Julian C. Hughes

in Dementia

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print December 2005 | ISBN: 9780198566151
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754418 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

The return of the living dead: agency lost and found?

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The above quotations are taken from two of the ‘living dead’. The first is from a fictional zombie in the 1985 cult horror movie The Return of the Living Dead. The second is from a person with Alzheimer's disease who experiences a similar drift into a twilight zone between life and death. The similarities are more than superficial.

The ‘living dead’ in the film are animated corpses. We are terrified as observers because we can identify with the awful situation that these creatures are in. The zombies are simultaneously rotting corpses but they are still sentient, feeling beings who can perceive the agony of decay. This chapter will consider whether the ‘living dead’ are not just creatures of the imagination but might also be people with advanced dementia. People with dementia can be treated as already dead and as walking corpses to be both pitied and feared, despite their obvious signs of life. The fate of self in the face of this neurological disease and the effects of anti-dementia drugs in re-animating these ‘living corpses’ are described and some of the philosophical issues that arise are discussed.

Chapter.  9140 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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