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GC 570

Current Topics in Death, Dying & Bereavement

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This course is designed to provide the health care professional who deals directly with dying, death and bereavement an overview of the topics, trends, research and issues that are current in the field of thanatology today. Through a series of selected articles, you will have the opportunity to explore and evaluate medical, ethical, emotional, spiritual and cultural topics that constitute ongoing issues in this field. Topics are centered around new definitions of death; dying and death across the life cycle (children, teens, the elderly); the dying process; ongoing ethical questions connected with dying and death; contemporary trends in funerals and burials rites; and current concepts in the grieving process. Students studying pastoral thanatology, grief counseling, and funeral services will especially benefit by this course. The course presupposes that the student is practicing in one of these fields and would like to benefit from a summary and review of the current debates and issues of these fields. Course Code: GC 570. Contact hours of Education = 45. Course

This course is particularly designed for those who are already or were recently certified by the American Academy of Grief Counseling, and are seeking continuing education to meet re-certification requirements.

Instructor/Course Author:

Rosemary A. Castelli, Ed.D., FAAGC, PT-Csp, C-FSA

Certified Funeral Celebrant
Certified Grief Counselor

Link to resume                    

TIME FRAME: You are allotted two years from the date of enrollment to complete this course.


Textbooks: There are two (2) required books for the course available at low cost at Amazon.com.  The books contain a series of articles on a variety of thanatology subjects.  You are NOT required to read ALL of the articles presented in these editions.  I have chosen those articles I feel best express current trends in dying, death and bereavement.  I have tried to eliminate reading that repeats concepts from other articles.   The required articles are listed below under the course objectives section of this syllabus and you should read the articles in the order they are listed.  

1.  Annual Editions: Dying, Death and Bereavement 05/06.   George Dickinson, Ph.D. and Michael R. Leming, Ph.D., Editors. Dubnuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Suskin, 8 edition (November 8, 2004). ISBN-10: 0073102040 ISBN-13: 978-0073102047


2.   Annual Editions: Dying, Death and Bereavement 09/10.  George E. Dickinson, Ph.D. and Michael R. Leming, Ph.D.  Editors. Boston: McGraw Hill Higher Education Series, 2009/2010. 11 edition (March 23, 2009). ISBN-10: 007812767X ISBN-13: 978-0078127670

AIHCP Online Bookstore: AIHCP provides an online bookstore stocked with all of the required textbooks, and/or materials required for its CE courses. To purchase this book online, click the access store link, go to the table of categories, right upper hand corner, and click on Grief Counseling. Access AIHCP Store: click here

You may be able to order these texts from one of your local bookstores as well.

GRADING: You must achieve a passing score of at least 70% to complete this course and receive the 30 hours of awarded continuing education credit. There are no letter grades assigned. You will receive notice of your total % score. Those who score below the minimum of 70% will be contacted by the American Academy of Grief Counseling and options for completing additional course work to achieve a passing score, will be presented.

BOARD APPROVALS: The American Institute of Health Care Professionals, Inc. is a licensed Continuing Education Provider in the State of California, Board of Registered Nursing, Provider # CEP 15595. Access information

Online Classroom Resouces and Tools

* Message Boards: each specialty program has an area to "post" on the message board. Students may post messages at anytime. Posting allows students to converse with those in the same specialty practice and to discuss issues/course content etc. Instructions for posting are provided in the online classrooms.

* Chat Rooms: each specialty has it's own unique "chat room." Inside of the classroom there is a schedule for "chat time" with students in your specific specialty practice. Participating in "chats" is voluntary. The chat sessions are used as means for students to come together and discuss course content or anything related to the courses and/or certification specialty.

* Examination Access: there is link to take you right to the online examination program where you can print out your examination and work with it. All examinations are formatted as "open book" tests. When you are ready, you can access the exam program at anytime and click in your responses to the questions. Full information is provided in the online classrooms.

* Student Resource Center: there is a link for access to a web page "Student Resource Center." The Resource Center provides for easy access to all of our policies/procedures and additional information regarding applying for certification. We also have many links to many outside reference sites, such as online libraries that you may freely access.

* Online Evaluation: there is a link in the classroom where you may access the course evaluation. All students completing a course, must, without exception, complete the course evaluation.

* Faculty Access Information: you will have access to your instructor's online resume/biography, as well as your instructor's specific contact information.

* Additional Learning Materials: some faculty have prepared additional "readings" and /or brief lecture notes to enhance your experience. All of these are available in the online classrooms.



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Course Objectives: Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

1. Explain and interpret the role of technology and social change in redefining death.

2. Explore and explain why the question of brain death is still unsettled.

3. Explain the varying views of brain death cross culturally.

4.Review present medical school procedures for working with dead bodies.

5. Describe and evaluate the ethical implications of the lucrative trade in body parts today.

6. Evaluate the value of autopsies and examining the causes of death.

7. Describe the extent to which end of life issues are addressed in medical education today.

8. Evaluate the effectiveness of communication among children, parents and funeral directors at the time of the death of significant others in a child’s life.

9. Delineate themes of death and dying in children’s literature.

10. Identify and explain strategies for helping teenagers cope with grief.

11. Discuss how end of life care considers the spiritual and religious dimensions of the dying patient.

12. Examine how physicians today face the difficult task of telling patients they are dying.

13. Determine an outline that is a responsible guide for end of life care.

14. Discuss Oregon’s Death with Dignity Law and it’s implications for ethics and the law.   

15. Articulate and evaluate the argument against physician assisted suicide.

15. Define the concepts and arguments for and against Euthanasia.

16. Recall the lasting legacy of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

17. Delineate the new and distinctive elements of the contemporary American funeral.

18. Discover the meaning connected with the elements of the contemporary American Funeral.

19. Discern the role of a funeral director from a funeral director’s point of view.

20. Examine how different religions pay their final respects to the dead.

21. Relate some newer trends in funeral delivery.

22. Review the behaviors common in the grieving process.

23. Define and examine the nature of disenfranchised grief.

24. Explain how the concept of disenfranchised grief has been expanded.

25. Provide examples of disenfranchised grief.

26. Identify the seven high risk factors of complicated grief.

27. Analyze why complicated grief is on the rise.

28. Examine elements related to children’s understanding of death in contemporary society.

29. Identify the common characteristics of grief in children and to apply possible interventions for each. 

30. Analyze how death and dying are portrayed in American media.

31. Evaluate the ethical issues involved in keeping patients alive with expensive drugs.

32. Explore and assess perceptions of death in the terminally ill patient.

33. Explore how the elderly are treated as they approach death.

34. Identify and evaluate some of the dilemmas the elderly experience as they approach the end of their lives.

35. Examine what Americans believe about life after death.

36. Discuss palliative care in patients with severe pain.

37. Analyze whether death bed visions and near death experiences are real or hallucinations.

38. Identify the limitations of living wills.

39. Determine and evaluate the ethics of end of life decisions.

40. Identify interventions for suicidal college students.

41. Explore how and why colleges may take blame for student suicide.

42. Become acquainted with the practice of the Arlington Ladies.

43. Describe the growing trend in green funerals.

44. Explore the issue of burial of the indigent and unclaimed.

45.Explain peer based education programs for change, loss and grief.

Course Content:

A brief abstract of content:

1. The American Way of Dying and Death:
The role of technology in dying and death
Issues of brain death, death fear, and concepts of a good death
Issues connected with the lucrative trade in body parts.

2. Dying and Death Across the Life Cycle:
Concepts connected with death in the elderly.
Communication with children about death.
Helping teenagers with grief.
Questions surrounding life after death.

3. The Dying Process:
End of Life Decisions
Death bed and Near Death Visions
Spirituality and dying
Final wishes, palliative care and physician responses to the dying

4. Ethical Issues of Dying, Death and Suicide:
Death and the Law
Issues connected with physician assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Ethics and life’s ending
Suicide among college students

5. Funerals and Burial Rites Today:
Aspects and changes in the contemporary American Funeral
How different religions pay their final respects
The Arlington Ladies
Green burials
Burying indigent, unclaimed and unidentified people

6.  Bereavement:
The grieving process revisited
Disenfranchised grief and expanded views of it
The rise in complicated morning
Counseling with children in grief in contemporary society
Model program for dealing with child loss

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