Death, Dying, and Modern Medicine: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
General Catalog Course Title:
Death and Dying
Terms Offered:
Spring 2015
Fall 2013
Spring 2011
Course Thread: 
Sciences and Society
Micco, Guy
Laqueur, Thomas


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 the 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 in 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 of death.

One of the instructors, Guy Micco, MD, was chair of the Alta Bates ethics committee for many

years and regularly teaches medical humanities as well as clinical courses in the Berkeley-UCSF

Joint Medical Program. The other instructor, Thomas Laqueur, has taught about the history of

the body in various contexts and is completing a book on the history of death called The Dead

Among the Living.


For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.