Spring 2019


Introduction to End-of-Life Studies

By 2026 the number of Canadians dying each year will increase by 40 per cent, to 330,000. Yet Canada ranks only 11th in the 2015 Quality of Death Index released by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

In these four workshops, you will explore a comprehensive range of end-of-life issues. Taking a multicultural and interdisciplinary perspective, you will develop your understanding of today’s rapidly changing approaches to end of life, integrating insights from the medical, scientific, humanities, spiritual, ethical, legal and social science disciplines.

These workshops are intended for health professionals, spiritual advisors, policy-makers, researchers, educators, gerontologists, social workers, alternative medical practitioners, volunteers, caregivers and anyone else interested in the increasingly complex field of end of life. Regardless of your role, these workshops will enhance your ability to participate in improving the end-of-life experience for Canadians.

Note: This course was previously offered in fall 2017.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

We will survey historical and current approaches to death and dying and review influential 20th- century thanatology theories. We will also explore interdisciplinary and multicultural approaches to death and dying, focusing on approaches in Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Indigenous cultures. We’ll compare and contrast these approaches along multiple dimensions, examining their relevance in the 21st century.

We will also examine how changes in epidemiology, demography and medical technology have affected trajectories of dying and approaches to end-of-life care, including hospice and palliative care, community care programs and advance care planning. We’ll discuss “good death” discourses, exploring their impact on models of end-of-life care and on laws— global and national—related to euthanasia and assisted dying, including Canada’s legislation on medical assistance in dying, or MAiD.

The role of religion and spirituality at the end of life is changing rapidly. This is creating new and unconventional practices for death and dying, including narrative medicine, medical humanities, death cafés, death doulas and new rituals such as celebrations of life, sacred conversations and green burials. We will discuss the impact of these emerging approaches, particularly on our understanding of the meaning of death, social justice issues and the human rights movement.

We will explore these issues using a variety of instructional techniques, including lectures, assigned readings, film and video, group discussions and guest speakers.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures (including guest speakers)
  • Group discussion
  • Readings
  • Film and videos
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

There is required reading for this course.

Readings will be available online. Registered students will receive information one week before the course starts.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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