Week 1: The Long History of Suicide, Euthanasia, and Assisted Dying in Western Culture
Western culture’s ethical response to suicide and other forms of self-initiated death can be found as early as 4,000 years ago in writings from ancient Egypt. We will begin by exploring how early responses to self-initiated death evolved in religion and philosophy, from Antiquity through to the Enlightenment philosophers.
Week 2: Modern Philosophical and Social Science Perspectives on Self-Initiated Death
We continue to explore philosophical responses to self-initiated death by 18th and 19th century philosophers. We will also review early legal responses to suicide and euthanasia, and introduce perspectives from the emerging social sciences, particularly psychology and sociology.
Week 3: Suicide and Euthanasia in the Arts
Dramatists, novelists, poets and, more recently, movies and TV have addressed the many ethical issues that all forms of self-initiated dying raise. This week we will review artistic representations of these ethical issues in Greek drama, novels, poetry, and award winning docudramas and movies.
Week 4: “A Good Death”: Perspectives From Science, Medicine, and the Law
How have advances in science, the medicalization of dying, and legal discussions of human rights altered our understanding of what it means to experience a “Good Death” and a “Death with Dignity”? What is the role of suffering, choice, autonomy and control in a “good” or “dignified” death?
Week 5: The Canadian Experience leading to Carter v. Canada
Canada’s transition to Carter v. Canada and Bill C-14 can be traced back to the decriminalization of suicide over four decades ago (1972). The process has been long and acrimonious, and has centered on the legal and ethical issues raised by several key cases including Sue Rodriguez, Robert Latimer and most recently Gloria Taylor and Kay Carter.
Week 6: The Difficult Road Ahead
Bill C-14 is now law but many are disappointed – some by the restrictions it has imposed on the right to die and others by what they see as an excessively permissive regime. Have we balanced suffering and protection for the vulnerable, individual choice, and social responsibility? What lies ahead?