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Death, Dying, and the Quality of Life

PHI 350 Spring TR 11.00 a.m. - 12.15 p.m. CB 208

Dr Christian Perring    
E -mail: cperring@pop.uky.edu
Assistant: Linette Lowe Keeling                
E-mail: lrlowe0@pop.uky.edu 
Office: 1601 POT         Phone: 7-7171       
Office Hours: TR 4.00 - 6.00 pm. 
Office: 1402 POT         Phone: 7-3517       
Office Hours: TR 12.30 - 2.00 pm.


Course Description

In this course, we take an interdisciplinary approach to death and dying because we need to understand a conjunction of ethical, sociological, medical, psychological, legal, political, metaphysical, and religious issues. Insofar as we can separate out the philosophical issues, they include the nature of death, evidence for life after death or reincarnation, deciding how much control should we have over our own deaths, whether suicide is wrong, how much tax-payers' money should be spent on expensive treatments which provide little benefit, the right of hospitals to decide when life-prolonging treatment is futile, the moral obligation of doctors to tell dying patients their prognosis, and whether it is possible to measure and compare the benefit to patients provided by different treatments. But in order to address these philosophical questions adequately, we will need to have a detailed picture of the role of death and dying in modern society.

Although this is a large class of about 70, student participation is essential. You will give a presentation or be in a debate in front of the rest of the class, and you will need to do your own research and preparation for this. Readiness to ask questions of presenters and debaters is important, as well as general discussion in class. There will also be a listserv e-mail list for class discussion. There will be sereral in-class tests, one 5-page paper, and a final exam.

Required Book

R. J. Kastenbaum, Death, Society, and Human Experience (6th edition) (Allyn and Bacon, 1998) (DSHE) 

Optional Book

Tom Beauchamp and Robert Veatch (eds), Ethical Issues in Death and Dying (2nd edition), (Prentice Hall, 1996) (EIDD)

Internet Info:

Class Web Page, with class notes, write-ups of student presentations, and links to other useful web sites.    http://www.uky.edu/Classes/PHI/350/phi350.htm

Listserv mailing list:
Send an e-mail message to listserv@lsv.uky.edu [note listserv has no "e" on the end] with
"subscribe phi350 yourfirstname yourlastname"
in the body of the message [do not include the quotation marks].
If you have trouble subscribing, tell me via e-mail and I can do it for you.

Course Requirements:

Attendance is required, and there will be a sign-in sheet passed around each class. You need to make sure you have signed it before you leave class. Worth 10%. (You lose 1% for each class missed without excuse. If you miss more than 10 classes without excuse, you will fail the class.)

Reading the assigned chapters before each class, and being ready to answer simple questions about the readings in class.

Participation in class and/or the e-mail listserv group. Participation in class can take several forms: asking or answering questions during lectures, speaking for your group when we split class into smaller discussion groups, or asking questions and making comments during student presentations and debates. You can get full credit by only talking in class or only joining the e-mail discussion, but you must do one or the other, or you will get no credit. Worth 10%.

Each student must give a presentation or be in a debate. Worth 30%. A presentation or debate team will consist of 3 or 4 students. The dates and topics of possible presentations and debates are listed below, and it is first-come first-served. We will try to accomodate your preferences, but we cannot promise you will get your first choice. So you should give us your preferences for which debate or presentation you want to do as soon as you can. You must give us your preferences by February 7. Once you are assigned to a presentation or a debate team, you have an obligation to that team and to the class. If you fail to join in with preparation or turn up to your event, you will suffer a penalty.

Presentations should last 30-45 minutes, or longer if they include video. You are encouraged to use overhead projectors for showing pictures or text, videos, Powerpoint presentation software, role-playing or any form of presentation that will will be informative and interesting. Reading out written material is discouraged, especially if it is lengthy. You should let me know 4 days before class if you will need any audio-visual equipment for your presentation. During a presentation, 5 crucial facts or arguments concerning the subject should be highlighted. There should be at least 10 minutes at the end left for questions from the rest of the class.

Debates should last 60-70 minutes. They should real debates: the two sides should not rehearse with each other beforehand. Each side starts off with 10-15 minutes presenting its case. During this first part, each side should highlight 3 crucial facts or arguments. Then each side has 5-10 minutes to reply to the arguments given by their opponents. We have 10-20 minutes of questions to the teams from other class members, and finally a quick summing up by each team. You should make your case by careful argument, but you can use visual aids to emphasize your points. You should not read a prepared statement, unless it is very brief.

In preparing for your presention or debate, your team needs to meet at least several times, and needs to start planning at least a couple of weeks before the schedueled date. You should do research beyond what is in the course book to find relevant statistics or philosophical or ethical arguments that are made by other people writing about your issue. You need to make sure that you give the class the essential facts in ways they can take notes from, since they may well be tested on them later on. The library and the internet are good resources for much of the information you will need. It might also be a good idea to contact health care professionals or organizations for their opinions. If you have any questions about how to do your presentation or debate, where to find information, or are having serious problems with inter-group dynamics, please come to me and I will give you advise or help.

Write-ups. After the event, each presentation or debate team should submit a write up of their work within 10 days. I want this both on paper and on disk (any format is acceptable, although if you can I would like text documents saved in Rich Text Format (RTF)). The write-up should contain three elements:

I and II should be done by the whole group in collaboration. Each person should do III independently and separately from others in the group.

I) A description of the presentation or debate itself. Summaries of the main ideas, and any written material included. This should also an assessment of how the presentation or debate went, and address any criticisms that were made by other students in their feedback to the group.

II) A description of the research done each member of the group, whether or not it got included in the presentation or debate.

III) An assessment of the contribution of each member in a debate/presentation team, including yourself. Say what grade you would give each person. These assessments will be taken into account in assigning your grades, but do not completely determine the final decision.

In class tests: worth a total of 30%. These will be a mixture of multiple choice and short answer.

4-5 page typewritten paper/case commentary: worth 20%

Grading Scale. (We will not use the +/- system for this course.)    90 - 100 = A; 80 - 89 = B;  70 - 79 = C;  60 - 69 =D;  Below 60 = E

Schedule (subject to revision)

R January 15 Introduction. I will want a page of information, with the name you want to be called in class, last 4 digits of your SS#, your phone number, e-mail address, major, and a list of philosophy or other relevant classes taken. I also want a description of yourself and explanation of your interest in death, dying and the quality of life, mentioning any particular issues you would like to learn more about - a few sentences for each.
Self-Inventory of Attitudes

T 20 Attitudes towards Death (DSHE Ch.1)

R 22 The Death System (DSHE Ch. 3)

T 27 Causes of Death (DSHE Ch. 4)

Presentation: How medicine and health care have prolonged our lifespans. Comparison of North America now with the past, and with other parts of the world.

R 29 The Process of Dying

Presentation: What role do hospitals and technology play in our last days?

T Feb 3 Definition of Death: An event or a process? (DSHE Chs. 2)

R 5 [Buffer]

T 10 Legal Criteria of Death (EIDD §1 The Definition of Death)

Debate: Should adult individuals be able to specify ahead of time what criteria should be used to decide if they are dead or not?

R 12 Life After Death, Test

Presentation: Views of the afterlife in different religions

T 15 Looking for Proof (DSHE Ch. 14)

Presentation: Evidence of ghosts and communication with the dead

R 19 Is Suicide Wrong? (DSHE Ch. 8) (EIDD §3 Classical Problems)

Presentation: The role of suicide in modern society

T24 Truth Telling (EIDD §2 Truthtelling with Dying Patients)

Debate: should health care professionals ever withhold the prognosis from dying patients?

R 26 No class.

T March 3 The Rights of Incompetent Conscious Adults (EIDD §7 Decisions on Behalf of Adults)

Debate: Should severely mental retarded and senile people with life threatening diseases be given the same health care as the rest of us?

R 5 The Right to Refuse (DSHE Ch. 10 pp 235-258) (EIDD §3 The Prevention of Suicide; §5 Intending and Causing Death)

Presentation: How easy is it to to refuse life-saving treatment for oneself in hospitals today?

T 10 Dying Children (DSHE Ch. 11), Test

Presentation: Dying Children's Right to Control their Death

R 12 Living Wills and Organ Donation

T 24 Measuring the Quality of Life
[See Encyclopedia of Bioethics in Bio Sciences & Med Center Libraries]

R 26 The Effect of AIDS (DSHE Ch. 7) Visiting Speaker

T 31 Facing Death and Dying with Dignity (DSHE Ch. 5), Test

Presentation: Kubler-Ross and other approaches

R April 2 Hospice Care and Palliative Care (DSHE Ch. 6)

Presentation: Hospices in Kentucky

T 7 The Grief Process and Honoring the Dead (DSHE Ch. 12 & 13)

R 9 [Buffer]

T 14 Terrorism (DSHE Ch. 9 pp. 218-228)

Debate: Terrorism is never justified

R16 The Death Penalty (DSHE Ch. 9 pp. 207-218)

Debate: Should Kentucky keep the death penalty?

T 21 Death Education (DSHE Ch. 15)

R 23 Review

T 28 Final Test

R 30 [Buffer]