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End of Life Care: Challenges and Innovation

  • Categories Healthcare
  • Duration 30h
  • Total Enrolled 0
  • Last Update October 11, 2021

About Course

The University of Glasgow


Learn about new directions and the latest thinking on end of life care.

Death itself may be certain, but how we die involves many challenges. On this course, you’ll explore the care we receive when dying, cultural variations and beliefs around what makes a good death, and the planning and timing of death.

With increasingly ageing populations, we are living longer but dying more slowly. New ideas around end of life care are therefore emerging in different contexts. You will discover the patterns and global trends taking place in palliative care, and explore these new approaches from a social science and humanities perspective.

You’ll also be learning from health and care experts at the University of Glasgow, recently ranked as offering the number one online healthcare course and number 14 online health and medicine course by Class Central, a search engine ranking the top online classes of all time.

What topics will you cover?

  • Defining dying and end of life
  • ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ dying
  • Hospital care at the end of life
  • How communities around the world are creating new ways to deliver palliative care for people with chronic and terminal illnesses – the example of Kerala, in India
  • How ‘compassionate communities’ are forming to work alongside service providers to meet the challenges of loneliness, isolation and the experience of ‘social death’ – the example of Clydebank, in Scotland
  • Examining the fast growing world-wide interest in the movement known as ‘Death Café’
  • Many people want to take direct control over how they die. Where is assisted dying legal and what are its implications – for the meaning of death, the practice of palliative care and the ‘right to choose’?
  • Rational suicide – an emerging response to the desire for direct control over the manner of one’s death, especially among older people
  • How modern individuals seek to ‘curate’ their dying process and the rituals that follow it

Who will you learn with?

Marian Krawczyk

Marian Krawczyk

I am a Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow with the End of Life Studies Group at the University of Glasgow. I am a medical anthropologist who is interested in interdisciplinary research on the end of life.


Naomi Richards

Naomi Richards

I am Lecturer in Social Science and Director of the Glasgow End of Life Studies Group. I am a social and visual anthropologist and am interested in cultural aspects of ageing and dying.


Who developed the course?

University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow


Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK research universities.

  • Established: 1451

  • Location: Glasgow, Scotland, UK

  • World ranking: Top 70Source: QS World University Rankings 2020

What Will I Learn?

  • Remember key elements and discussions in the end of life care challenges that are being faced around the world, including important metrics
  • Understand the implications of these issues, debates and metrics for policy making, service organisation, clinical practice and public involvement
  • Apply these understandings to specific situations with which learners will be presented in the course materials – through specific micro-case studies – and sharing their own experiences and ideas in discussion with others
  • Analyse current debates on end of life care in ways which lead to comparisons between different settings
  • Evaluate and make critical judgements based on research evidence about existing and new approaches to end of life care and potential solutions to problems identified
  • Create new scenarios for future end of life care based on an analysis of needs, conflicting debates, best practice and the potential for innovation

Topics for this course

17 Lessons30h

Welcome to the Course?

Meet the team and understand what will be expected of you as a learner on this course
Introduction to the Course ARTICLE
Dying and Death in Unprecedented Times: Covid-19 ARTICLE


In Week 1 we will be exploring end of life and dying from an interdisciplinary social science perspective.

Defining ‘End of Life’ and ‘Dying’?

In this section we explore various ways the 'end of life' and 'dying' can be defined.

‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Dying?

In this section we examine key characteristics of “good” and “bad” dying.

Hospital Care at End of Life?

In this section we consider the continuing importance of hospitals at the end of life.


This week focused end of life and dying from a social science perspective, which meant we explored them as intertwined social and physical processes. In order to unsettle our taken-for-granted assumptions, we began by questioning what dying actually ‘is’. We then reviewed some of the key functions and elements of a death system – a term to collectively describe the ways in which we give meaning to and regulate end of life, dying, and death. We then turned to examine specific aspects of our death systems, including the concept of dying trajectories and differing definitions of death. We paid particular attention to the social science origins of dying trajectories, and how a social science approach can help us better understand differing definitions of death in an era where medicine can radically extend the quantity, if not quality, of life. We also explored specific attributes of the dying process that shape our contemporary understanding of a “good” or “bad” death. Through this we learned that people do not always necessarily agree on what it means to die well. We heard about the ways in which being in a hospital at the very end of life can both hinder – but also in some instances help – our ability to achieve a good death. In our final section we learned about the central of hospitals in end of life care within the Global North, and we delved further into the professional and organizational aspects of the hospital setting. We explored the hospital through a systems framework, which enabled us to better see the multitude of stakeholders and interests involved. Finally, we considered a new form of medical care focused on the end of life. We traced the origins, and evolution, of palliative care from the ground-breaking work of Cicely Saunders to the contemporary hospital setting. We identified different types of hospital palliative care, and anticipated the continuing central roles hospitals will continue to play in the twenty-first century. Alt text Yet hospitals are only one location where we receive care, live out our last days, and die. A social science perspective also requires awareness of the enormous diversity of beliefs, behaviours and actions through which we organize end of life. Week Two broadens our focus by discussing a range of innovative community responses to end of life care.

Material Includes

  • Official Certificate

Target Audience

  • This course is for people interested in or engaged in matters relating to death, dying, bereavement, palliative and end of life care.
  • This course will be of special interest to those working in healthcare, including physicians, nurses, social workers, and other health and social care professionals.
  • The course will also appeal to practitioners, students, researches, volunteers and policymakers in end of life care, as well as social activists and those working in artistic and cultural media who are working on end of life issues.