Death, Dying, and Modern Medicine: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives


Spring 2017
Gaetan P. Micco
141 McCone
Day & Time: 
TuTh 11-12:30
Class Number: 

This course is jointly offered by a physician and a historian. We will discuss contemporary questions of policy and practice: medical definitions of death; the “right to die;” how we die and how (we say) we want to die; the role of the hospital and the hospice; the functions of the State in mediating between various views about the end of life; the role of doctors, family, and others at the end of life, for example. We will also consider questions in the social and cultural history of death: how and in what numbers people have died before and after the demographic revolution; whether some cultures were more successful in assuaging the pain of death than others, whether there really has been a secularization of death; where bodies have gone and how they have been remembered; what the relationship is between the history of life and of death. One of the instructors, Guy Micco, MD, is a hospice/palliative care physician, was chair of the Alta Bates ethics committee for many years and regularly teaches medical humanities as well as clinical courses in the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program. The other instructor, Thomas Laqueur, has taught about the history of the body in various contexts; his most recent book is The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains.