• University of Glasgow

End of Life Care: Challenges and Innovation

Explore dying and palliative care practice around the world and evaluate new trends and ideas surrounding end of life care issues.

9,677 enrolled on this course

End of Life Care: Challenges and Innovation

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.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds It is often said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Death itself may be certain, but how and where we die and the meanings we attach to dying have many dimensions. This course explores some of the challenges of contemporary end of life care. You’ll have a chance to study the different forms of care people receive before they die, how we plan and prepare for death, and how culture and values shape our experiences.

Skip to 0 minutes and 33 seconds MARIAN KRAWCZYK: We begin by defining key terms we use to talk about the end of life, and consider some of the ways that we collectively deal with the threat of death. We then examine if it’s possible to know when someone is sick enough to die, and consider different categories of death. Finally, we explore the characteristics of good and bad dying, and consider the special role of hospitals in end of life care.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds DAVID CLARK: We’ll study how communities around the world are creating new ways to think about death and dying and caring for people with terminal illnesses. In Kerala, in India to Clydebank in Scotland, we’ll study innovative approaches that generate compassion and care in the community. And we’ll be taking a look at the fast growing worldwide movement that’s known as death cafe.

Skip to 1 minute and 23 seconds NAOMI RICHARDS: Many people want to take direct control over how they die. In an ageing world, assisted dying and old age rational suicide are increasingly a subject of debate and discussion. We’re going to examine these debates, and look at the ethical implications. Finally, we’re going to look at how modern individuals seek to personalise their own funerals. So please join us for this free online course and investigate these challenging issues. You’ll have opportunities to share ideas and reflections and to learn from others. And you’ll discover some innovative approaches to important and complex problems. We look forward to meeting you and to working with you on this one subject that affects absolutely every one of us.


  • Week 1

    Definitions, Concepts, and the Particular Case of Hospital Dying

    • Welcome to the Course

      Meet the team and understand what will be expected of you as a learner on this course

    • Overview

      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.

    • Week 1 Summary

      Summarising what we've learnt so far.

  • Week 2

    Community Approaches to End of Life Care and Contemporary Dying

    • Overview

      Here in week two we are moving on to explore some examples of how communities around the world are experimenting with different ways to foster end of life care and to promote discussions about dying and death.

    • Community Palliative Care in Kerala, India

      In these steps we learn about how the Kerala model of community palliative care developed and the aspects of the local context that seem to have promoted its growth.

    • Compassionate Communities

      In these steps we learn about the concept of 'compassionate communities', thinking carefully about its strengths and possible limitations, and exploring in detail one example of the approach that is taking place in Scotland

    • Death Café

      In recent years the Death Café idea has been spreading around the world. In these steps we learn about how the idea started, what it consists of, and what wider benefits it may have.

    • Week 2 Summary

      This week we learned about the extraordinary power of communities to respond to end of life care issues and to learn from each other. But dying also has its unique, personal aspects and we explore some of these in the week ahead.

  • Week 3

    The Rise of Autonomy, Choice and Personalisation

    • Overview

      In this week we will be exploring self-directed interventions at the end of life, including assisted dying, rational suicide and personalised funerals.

    • Assisted Dying

      In these steps we will be learning about the international spread of assisted dying legislation, about the different types of medicalised assistance available, and some of the reasons people might want to hasten their own death.

    • Old-Age Rational Suicide

      In these steps we will explore the difference between rational suicide and assisted dying, what a good death might look like when you're 'old and ready to go', and debate the terms 'completed life' and 'tired of life'.

    • Personalised Funerals

      In these steps we discuss the historical shift towards personalisation of funerals, the rise of so-called 'do it yourself' funerals, and you will be encouraged to think about how you might want to personalise your own funeral.

    • Week 3 Summary

      Summarising what we've learnt so far.

    • Course Recap

      Taking a final look back at the past 3 weeks of learning.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • 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

Who is the course for?

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.

It is ideal for anybody considering taking The University of Glasgow’s MSc End of Life Studies

Who will you learn with?

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.

I am Lecturer in Social Sciences and member 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.

I am a Professor of Medical Sociology working with the End of Life Studies Group at the University of Glasgow. My special interests are in the history and development of hospice and palliative care.

Who developed the course?

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.

  • Established1451
  • LocationGlasgow, Scotland, UK
  • World rankingTop 70Source: QS World University Rankings 2020

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