Death and Dying

Course description Death and Dying
Year: 2016-2017
Catalog number: 7600HCDEA
Teacher(s):
  • Prof.mr.dr. A.C. Hendriks
  • Prof.dr. J. Gussekloo
  • Dr. D.P. Touwen
  • Prof.dr. A.M. van Hemert
  • Dr. J. Lindenberg
  • Drs. D. van Bodegom
  • Prof.dr. J.P.J. Slaets
  • Prof.dr. A.J.W. van der Does
Language: English
Blackboard: Yes
EC: 5
Level: 400
Period: Semester 2, Block IV
  • No Elective choice
  • No Contractonderwijs
  • No Exchange
  • No Study Abroad
  • No Evening course
  • No A la Carte
  • Yes Honours Class

Admission requirements

This course is an Honours Class and therefore in principle only available to students of the Honours College. There are a few places available for regular students.

Description

Death is life’s great mystery. It touches the lives of everyone and has triggered people’s imagination since ancient times. Every major religion and philosophical school has sought to explain death and every culture has its own ways of dealing with it. Death is relevant to every branch of science, from biology to literature studies to sociology, and obviously, to medicine.

Average life expectancy and median age at death have steadily increased over the past century. In many parts of the world, people are healthier and can be productive for longer than ever before in history. The increase of longevity has large consequences on individual and societal level. It creates opportunities, but also new problems and challenges. On the other hand, many people still die at a young age because of diseases, accidents, warfare and crime. Despite our longer life spans, we all die and with our longer lives the relevance of death and dying seems to have only increased. At the same time, because the average age of death has increased, dying and death seem to have become less present in our daily lives.

Death may be scary, but can also be longed for, as we have seen in recent political debates. Some people want to die and request medical assistance, not because of intolerable suffering or disease, but because they feel that their life is fully lived. Furthermore, 800.000 people worldwide commit suicide each year, not always in response to a mental or physical disease. One could argue that the modern urge to control one’s life also addresses the moment of dying, Or, as the European Court of Human Rights has considered: every one has the right to decide by what means and at what point his or her life will end, provided he or she is capable of freely reaching a decision on this question and acting in consequence. This raises the question who is responsible for the avoidance but also for the effectuation of dying. All in all, the topic of death merits attention.

In this summer school we will explore the theme of death and dying from different perspectives. The topics include:

  • the mechanisms and evolutionary purpose of cell death in the biology of multicellular organisms
  • the demographics, causes and the psychological and social consequences of increased longevity
  • medical and non-medical decision making at the end of life
  • self-determination and ethical, legal and medical dimensions of people’s wishes concerning their future
  • the sociology and psychology of suicidal behavior
  • philosophical perspectives on death and dying
  • Quality of life and quality of death in the final stages of life

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will:

  • Have a basic understanding of the biological mechanisms and evolutionary purpose of death.
  • Have a basic understanding of various historical and philosophical perspectives on death and dying.
  • Know and be able to reflect upon the demographics, causes and the psychological and social consequences of increased longevity.
  • Be able to reflect upon the topic of self-determination and modern people’s urge to control their own fate, and the ethical and legal aspects of this.
  • Have basic knowledge and understanding of the sociology and psychology of suicidal behavior.
  • Be familiar with both intentions and actual possibilities of palliative care and well-being in the final stages of life.

Timetable

26, 27, 28, 29, 30 June 2017. 9.00 AM till 7.00 PM

Location

Old Observatory, Leiden, Room C003.

Programme

Day 1: How we die (Monday June 26)

Introduction to the theme: death and dying
*Henk Thiadens, huisarts (LUMC Public Health en Eerstelijnsgeneeskunde)) *

Demographics and causes of increased longevity
*David van Bodegom (Leyden Academy of Vitality and Aging) *

Informal dinner in town (all students and staff welcome)

Day 2: The meaning of death (Tuesday June 27)

Historical and philosophical perspectives on death and dying
Joris Slaets (Leyden Academy of Vitality and Aging)

The psychological and social consequences of increased longevity
*Jolanda Lindenberg (Leyden Academy of Vitality and Aging) *

Day 3: Self-chosen death (Wednesday June 28)

Euthanasia and medical decisions at the end of life: ethical, legal and medical dimensions of people’s wishes concerning their own end
Aart Hendriks (hoogleraar Gezondheidsrecht UL Faculteit Rechtsgeleerdheid), Dorothea Touwen (LUMC Ethiek en Recht van de Gezondheidszorg)

The sociology and psychology of suicidal behavior
Willem van der Does (UL Psychologie), Bert van Hemert (LUMC Psychiatrie)

Day 4: Care for the dying (Thursday June 29)

Quality of life and quality of death; palliative care and well-being in the final stages of life
*Jacobijn Gusseklo, Jeanet Blom, Yvonne Drewes (LUMC, PHEG/Ouderengeneeskunde) *

Death, rituals and mourning across cultures and religions
To be announced
*
Day 5: Student presentations, panel discussion, key note speaker (Friday June 30)
*To be announced

Mode of instruction: mainly interactive lectures and working groups, guest lectures; one excursion

Course Load

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • Lectures/seminars/excursion: 35 hours
  • Literature reading & practical work: 60 hours
  • Final essay: 20 hours

Assessment method

  • 30% Active participation
  • 70% A final paper of 2000 words

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

The literature will be made available on Blackboard.

Registration

Enrolling in this course is possible from Monday November 7th until Sunday November 20th through the Honours Academy, via this link

Application via a short motivational letter explaining the reasons for following this summer course; what the student expects to learn; what s/he may contribute.

Contact

prof. dr. Willem van der Does

Languages