Dying and Death

Course Description

Only familiarity with the thought of death creates true inner freedom.

- Albert Schweitzer

Few experiences in life are as universal as dying and death. This course is a journey that offers a unique opportunity to reflect upon life's end on an individual and personal level. Doing so allows us to be most full present as we live, and with others when dying and death touch their lives, as well as when either touches our own. While this exploration can be challenging, it can also be enlightening, enriching, uplifting, and often liberating. Most of all, the amazing adventure of facing mortality has significant implications for the choices we make today!

Course Learning Goals

After completing this course, you will be able to:

Course Competencies

In this course, you will develop the following competences:


Competence Statement and Criteria


Can examine a social issue from an ethical perspective.

  • Identifies and describes a social issue or situation.
  • Identifies an ethical perspective relevant to the issue or situation.
  • Uses that perspective to raise or explore questions about this issue or situation.

Students demonstrate this competence by using an ethical perspective to analyze a social issue. They may create their own ethical perspective, but should always engage the ideas of one or more significant ethicists. The issues or situations that students address in this competence should affect large groups of people. Students should explore the implications of this analysis for their own experience.


Can analyze a problem using two different ethical systems.

  • Identifies and describes an ethical issue or problem
  • Describes the distinctive assumptions of two different ethical systems
  • Analyzes the problem by comparing and contrasting how these two different systems would apply to that particular ethical issue or problem.

Students demonstrate this competence by applying two ethical systems to a particular issue or problem that permits substantial ethical examination (for example, business practices, uses of technology, reproductive rights, class structures, institutional racism, sexual behavior, etc.). Students may choose any ethical system that is associated with particular thinkers. Students may consider the choices these thinkers identify, and the standards or measures by which these choices are made to obtain desired outcomes.


Can understand the interrelationships among intellectual, psychological, spiritual, and physical health in one's own life.

  • Defines health as a holistic concept, comprised of intellectual, psychological, and spiritual as well as physical components.
  • Describes how two or more intellectual, psychological, spiritual or physical aspects interact to contribute to one's health.

Students demonstrate this competence by understanding how intellectual functioning and psychological, spiritual, and physical health interact and contribute to overall health. Definition of each component is critical to understanding that interrelationship, and students must apply their knowledge to an example from their own lives.


Can assess health care practices based on an understanding of the biological and social factors that contribute to definitions of health.

  • Identifies biological and social or cultural factors that contribute to a definition of health.
  • Articulates one or more definitions, theories, or models that describe health-care.
  • Articulates criteria for assessing health-care practices, for the individual or the community, based on the considerations of (1) and (2).
  • Assesses and articulates an approach to the maintenance of promotion of health using (1), (2), and (3) as the basis for forming generalizations.

Students demonstrate this competence by examining "health" and the functions of a healthy human. What does it mean, in medical or social terms, to be healthy? The functions of a healthy human suggest an understanding of the underlying mechanisms of health and disease. At a fundamental level, a student addressing this competence must demonstrate knowledge of human biology and relate that knowledge to forming a definition of "health." Students may explore disease or abnormal states in both biological and social terms, but in so doing should demonstrate an understanding of the normal state.

Course Resources

All course resources can be found within the course content.

Required Reading:


The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying, ** 9th Edition ONLY ** (Hardcover)

Lynne Ann DeSpelder and Albert Lee Strickland
McGraw-Hill, Oct 14, 2010


Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying

Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley, Bantam, 1997, 2012

Course Grading Scale

A = 95 to 100

A- = 91 to 94

B+ = 88 to 90

B = 85 to 87

B- = 81 to 84

C+ = 77 to 80

C = 73 to 76

C- = 69 to 72

D+ = 65 to 68

D = 61 to 64

F = 60 or below


Course Structure

This course consists of 10 modules. The estimated time to complete each module is 1 week.

The following table outlines the course topics, assignments, readings, videos and other assets. Please refer to the content of each Module for details.

Course Schedule

This course consists of 10 modules. The estimated time to complete each module is 1 week.

The following table outlines the course:

Week, Module # and Title



Module 1:
Attitudes Toward Death

Text Chapter 1: Attitudes Toward Death: A Climate of Change

1.1 Quiz - Module 1 Quiz

1.2 Dropbox - What's It All About, Alfie?

1.3 Dropbox - Draw With Me

1.4 Dropbox - Personal Reflections Journal

1.5 Discussion - Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'

1.6 Discussion - Course Pre-Mortem

1.7 Discussion - Hide and Seek

1.8 Discussion - In the Beginning

Module 2:
Sociocultural Forces

Text Chapter 2: Learning About Death: The Influence of Sociocultural Forces

Film: Ponette

2.1 Quiz: Chapter 2

2.2 Assignment: This is Your Life!

2.3 Assignment: You Oughta Be in Pictures

2.4 Assignment: Personal Reflections Journal

2.5 Discussion: Ponette

2.6 Discussion: Pediatric Case Study

Module 3:
Cultural and Historical Factors

Text Chapter 3: Perspectives on Death: Cultural and Historical

Documentary: The Black Death - Despair to Renewal

3.1 Quiz: Chapter 3

3.15 Field Trip Proposals

3.2 Assignment: Autobiography

3.3 Assignment: Time in a Bottle

3.4 Assignment: Personal Reflections Journal

3.5 Discussion: La Muerte Negra

3.6 Discussion: I Will Always Love You

3.7 Discussion: Peanut Butter & Jelly

Module 4:
Mortality and Society

Text Chapter 4: Death Systems: Mortality and Society

Journal Article: The Strange Death of David Rivlin

Documentary: Dax's Case

4.1 Quiz: Chapter 4

4.2 Assignment: Good Eating Habits

4.3 Assignment: Bucket List

4.4 Assignment: Personal Reflections Journal

4.5 Discussion: David Rivlin

4.6 Discussion: Dax Cowart

Module 5:
End-Of-Life Healthcare Provision

Text Chapter 5: Health Care: Patients, Staff, and Institutions

Documentary: On the Edge of Being: When Doctors Confront Cancer

5.1 Quiz: Chapter 5

5.2 Assignment: How Does Your Cat Drink? Think?

5.3 Assignment: Oops

5.4 Assignment: Personal Reflections Journal

5.5 Discussion: Compassion Fatigue

5.6 Discussion: On the Edge of Being

5.7 Discussion: Skip & Twirl

Module 6:
Health, Wellness, and Healing; Life, Love, and Laughter

Reading: (None)

Feature Film: Harold and Maude

(No Quiz This Module)

6.1 Assignment: The Wizard and Oz

6.2 Assignment: Poetry Man

6.3 Assignment: Personal Reflections Journal

6.4 Discussion: Harold and Maude

6.5 Discussion: Field Trip - Celebrating Life!

6.6 Discussion: Field Trip - Dying and Death

Module 7:
End-of-Life Decision Making

Text Chapter 6: End-of-Life Issues and Decisions

Journal Article: Is There a Duty to Die?

Documentary: Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter

7.1 Quiz: Chapter 7

7.2 Assignment: In Our Slippers

7.3 Assignment: Whose Life Is It Anyway?

7.4 Assignment: Personal Reflections Journal

7.5 Discussion: Knock, Knock. Who's There?

7.6 Discussion: Is there a Duty to Die?

7.7 Discussion: Snapped

Module 8:
Facing Mortality

Text Chapter 8: Facing Death: Living with Life-Threatening Illness

HBO Film: Wit

8.1 Quiz: Chapter 8

8.2 Assignment: To Be or Not To Be

8.3 Assignment: Random Acts of Kindness

8.4 Assignment: Personal Reflections Journal

8.5 Discussion: May I Assist You?

8.6 Discussion: Wit

8.7 Discussion: The Last Laugh

Module 9:
After Death / Grief and Loss

Text Chapter 9: Survivors: Understanding the Experience of Loss

Final Gifts by Maggie Callanan

Video Compilation: Dying, Death, and Humor Around the World

9.1 Quiz: Chapter 9

9.2 Assignment: What a Wonderful World

9.3 Assignment: Haiku

9.4 Assignment: Personal Reflections Journal

9.5 Discussion: Happy Trails To You

9.6 Discussions: Final Gifts

Module 10:
Beyond Death / After Life

Text Chapter 10: Beyond Death / After Life

Documentary: The Spirit Molecule

TEDTalk: Stroke of Insight

Video Clip: This Is My Story

Online Quiz: Chapter 10

10.2 Assignment: Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred

10.3 Assignment: Grizabella, You Sing it Girl!

10.4 Assignment: Personal Reflections Journal

10.5 Discussion: A Spirit Molecule?

10.6 Discussion: Insight?

To see course due dates, click on the Checklist link on the top navigation bar. This page contains module-specific checklists and due dates for the work due in the course.

Assessment of Learning

Percentage distribution of Assessments

Grading Category

% of Final Grade:









Field Trips




Grading Policies and Practices

To complete the course, you must complete each of the assignments as described in the course and submit them by the assigned deadline. In addition, you must participate in the course discussion forum by responding to all instructor requests and by interacting with fellow classmates as necessary.

Points may be deducted for late work.

General Assessment Criteria for All Writing Assignments

All writing assignments are expected to conform to basic college-level standards of mechanics and presentation.

Consider visiting the Writing Center to discuss your assignments for this course or any others. You may schedule appointments (30 or 50 minutes) on an as–needed or weekly basis, scheduling up to 3 hours worth of appointments per week. Online services include Feedback–by–Email and IM conferencing (with or without a webcam). All writing center services are free.

Writing Center tutors are specially selected and trained graduate and undergraduate students who can help you at almost any stage of your writing. They will not do your work for you, but they can help you focus and develop your ideas, review your drafts, and polish your writing. They can answer questions about grammar, mechanics, different kinds of writing styles, and documentation formats. They also can answer questions and provide feedback online, PRO version Are you a developer? Try out the HTML to PDF API pdfcrowd.com through IM/webcam chats and email. Obviously, the tutors won’t necessarily be familiar with every class or subject, but they are able to provide valuable help from the perspective of an interested and careful reader as well as a serious and experienced student-writer.

Schedule your appointments with enough time to think about and use the feedback you’ll receive. To schedule a Face-to-Face, Written Feedback by Email, or Online Appointment, visit http://condor.depaul.edu/writing/.

Assessment Criteria for Online Discussion Participation

Your contributions to the required conferences will be graded on whether you:

  • Clearly and consistently link what you are learning in the course to your real life experiences.
  • Contribute to the online discussions in a collegial fashion, beginning your contributions by addressing your peers, maintaining a kind and collegial tone, and closing with your signature.
  • Contribute your own original ideas to the online discussion in ways that facilitate learning for other people.
  • Demonstrate good "listening" skills and active inquiry skills. This means that you are open to the ideas of others and you offer constructive responses, whether in the form of questions or statements. You might provide your own experiences, challenge ideas of others, or expand an idea further.
  • Connect to the course on a regular basis. This is not an independent study course, but a paced online group learning experience. Six to ten hours per week of your time should be spent on the course.
  • Responses should extend an idea raised in the original posting, pose a question, or develop a new (related) idea.

Course Expectations

Time Management and Attendance

SCPS's online courses are not self-paced and require a regular time commitment EACH week throughout the quarter.

You are required to log in to your course at least four times a week so that you can participate in the ongoing course discussions.

Online courses are no less time consuming than "face to face" courses. You will have to dedicate some time every day or at least every second day to your studies. A typical four credit hour "face to face" course at SCPS involves three hours of classroom meeting per week, plus at least three to six hours of study and homework per week.

This course will require at least the same time commitment, but your learning activities will be spread out through the week. If you have any problems with your technology, or if you need to improve your reading or writing skills, it may take even longer.

The instructor should be notified if your life events do not allow you to participate in the course and the online discussions for more than one week. This is particularly important when there are group discussions or you are working as part of a team.

If you find yourself getting behind, please contact the instructor immediately.

Your Instructor's Role

Your instructor's role in this course is that of a discussion facilitator and learning advisor. It is not their responsibility to make sure you log in regularly and submit your assignments. As instructor, s/he will read all postings to the general discussion forums on a daily basis but may not choose to respond to each posting. You will receive feedback to assignments.

The instructor may choose to designate "office hours" when s/he will be online and will immediately respond to questions. Depending on the instructor, this response may be by e-mail, instant messenger or telephone. Otherwise, you will generally receive a response to emailed or posted queries within 48 hours.

Your Role as a Student

As an online student, you will be taking a proactive approach to your learning. As the course instructor's role is that of a learning guide, your role is that of the leader in your own learning.

You will be managing your own time so that you can complete the readings, activities and assignments for the course, and you will also be expected to take a more active role in peer learning.

Please also note that this is a course offered by DePaul University's School for New Learning (SCPS), a college for undergraduate and graduate degree-seeking students 24 years and older. SCPS welcomes the perspectives and encourages the participation of all DePaul students, and students who take this course should respect and be mindful of SCPS's mission in supporting a diverse and inclusive environment. More information about SCPS can be found here.

View this brief demo Taking SNL Online courses in D2L to learn how to navigate through your course.

If you're new to SCPS Online see additional resources on the course home page under Student Resources/Getting Started.

Course Netiquette

Online discussions are an important part of your course experience. To ensure a positive learning environment, please follow the following minimum expectations. Use your common sense, as not all situations can be covered:

  • Be polite
  • Respect other participants’ views or opinions
  • Think before you write, and ask yourself if you would say the same thing in person
  • Use positive phrases (i.e., "Good idea!" or "Thanks for the suggestions," etc.)
  • Be sensitive to cultural differences
  • Avoid hostile, curt or sarcastic comments
  • No objectionable, sexist, or racist language will be tolerated
  • Create a positive online community by offering assistance and support to other participants.
  • Use correct grammar and syntax

Course Policies

College and University Policies

This course includes and adheres to the college and university policies described in the links below:

Academic Integrity Policy (UGRAD)

Academic Integrity Policy (GRAD)

Incomplete Policy

Course Withdrawal Timelines and Grade/Fee Consequences

Accommodations Based on the Impact of a Disability

Protection of Human Research Participants

APA citation format (GRAD)

Additional Course Resources

University Center for Writing-based Learning

SNL Writing Guide

Dean of Students Office

Changes to Syllabus

This syllabus is subject to change as necessary. If a change occurs, it will be clearly communicated to students.


This course was designed and produced by Kyle Nash and staff at SCPS of the School for Continuing and Professional Studies of DePaul University.

© 2013 School for Continuing and Professional Studies, DePaul University. All Rights Reserved by SCPS.