Scott Stonington

Professional Title

Assistant Professor of 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.

Research Interests

Michigan Medicine
qualitative research