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What Makes A Good Death?

Friday 1 February 19.00-21.00, Saturday 2 February 10.30-17.30

“The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.” Epicurus

The idea of the good death has a rich provenance. Since the demise of Socrates from hemlock poisoning it has been deemed possible to die ‘well’ – with dignity, control and a sense of having remained true to oneself. Since then, philosophers have grappled with this enduring mythology, and representations of the good death resonate in art and literature. Today, end-of-life issues are fiercely debated in the context of medicine and palliative care, as we consider how we wish to end our days.

This special two-day symposium will bring together leading experts to explore the idea of the good death through the lenses of history, philosophy and medicine. How has the concept of a ‘good death’ changed over time, what does it mean today, and how does it relate to modern medicine? How can we better prepare for death, and make sense of it? Who is the ‘good death’ good for – the dying person, or those left behind?

A full day of talks and discussion will be preceded by a Friday evening of literary readings exploring death through the eyes of poets and writers, curated by writer and critic Steven Connor. Enjoy a drinks reception, meet your fellow symposium guests, and view the critically acclaimed 'Death: A Self-portrait' exhibition away from the crowds.


Christopher Belshaw, senior lecturer in philosophy, Open University, on what philosophy can teach us about facing death.

Desmond Biddulph, President of the Buddhist Society, on Buddhism and death.

Sophie Bostock, Assistant Curator, Prints and Drawings, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, on the tradition of ars moriendi – instruction manuals on how to die well – in art history.

Kate Forde, curator of ‘Death: A self-portrait’, giving an insight into the exhibition.

Sheila Payne, Chair in Hospice Studies, Lancaster University, on what a good death means in the context of medicine, palliative care and the hospice movement.

Linda Woodhead, Professor of Sociology of Religion, Lancaster University, on death and remembrance rituals in contemporary British society.

£30 full price/£25 concessions for both days, including drinks on Friday evening and lunch, tea and coffee on Saturday. To book, please call +44 (0)20 7611 2222.

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