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

History C191

Fall 2013
Day & Time: 
TuTh 2-3:30P

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 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 at 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 death.

Course Books

Swimming in a Sea of Death: A son’s memoir by Rieff, David Simon and Schuster. ISBN: 978-0743299473 Required
The Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Faust, Drew Vintage Books. ISBN: 978-0-375-70383-6 Required
And a Time to Die: How American Hospitals Shape the End of Life by Kaufman, Sharon Scribner. ISBN: 0-7432-6476-2 Required
The Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy, Leo CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN: 1468014315 Required
How we Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Nuland, Sherwin Vintage Books. ISBN: 0679742441 Required
W;t; by Edson, Margaret Dramatist's Play Service. ISBN: 082221704X Required
Western Attitudes Toward Death by Aries, Philippe John Hopkins University Press. ISBN: 0801817625 Required