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Compendium Humane Dying

Project-speaker: Prof Dr Wolfgang U Eckart

Participating: M Anderheiden, H Bardenheuer, H Kiesel, A Kruse, J Wassmann

At the end of life, three fields of research with their own references to human dignity have to be distinguished: the individual end of life (dying), the statistically probable end of life, which comes closer with growing old (aging), and the postmortem protection of personality. The group of researches here concentrates on the dying. This corresponds on the one hand with the orientation of the overall project "human dignity“, which focuses expressly the views of man, and in this context the postmortem protection of personality. „Aging“ on the other hand at the Marsilius-Kolleg is dealt with as a big subject of research of its own. "Humane Dying“ proves to be a great desideratum of interdisciplinary research, which could be a link for the projects at the college at the same time.

The joined researchers on this project part will write a manual entitled "Humane Dying“. Such a manual is a scientific novelty that can be realized under constant and far-reaching interdisciplinary exchange. The financing by funds of the Excellency initiative and the personal connection to the Marsilius-Kolleg by fellows are seen as a first phase to work out the trespassing questions of the subject, and to deal with in symposia, to look through and sort the extensive material, which is not tailored to the subject, to extend the network of scientific contacts, and canvass collecting additional external funds for continuous financing (DFG-Normalantrag [standard application], Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg, wissenschaftliche Akademien [scientific academies]).

The joined researchers in the project are haunting the thought, that contrary to the until today dominating approach, dying is an own separable phase of human life signified by particularities. It comes out more clearly than one generation ago by the findings of the bio- and medical sciences, and is accepted as such with the institutionalization of palliative medicine and hospices. The researchers see, that the dying human is exposed to exceptional threats, but also has own potentials until the very last phase of life. Potentials and threats shall be conceptualized precisely and full of perspectives for an adequate notional version of humane dying.

Each of the researchers has already worked and published on the subject "Dying" from his scientifical view, or is further confronted with it at his everyday work. In addition far-reaching experiences in interdisciplinary cooperation exist, that everyone contributes. Project related results of empiric research from ethnology and psychology are available. The preparatory works culminate in a series of lectures of the Studium Generale of the University of Heidelberg in SS 2007 („Palliativmedizin als Bedingung einer neuen ars moriendi“, Chairmanship: Anderheiden, Bardenheuer, Eckart), and in a prepared congress for May 2008 „Menschenbild und Menschenwürde am Lebensende“ (Chairmanship: Kiesel). Accompanying doctorate colleges are planned or applied for.

Manual, and prepared, or accompanying works in joint mutual scientific cooperation, and with the opportunity of palliative medical experience, shall be helpful to medical, psychological, and culture-specific understanding the process of dying. It shall detect conceptual traps, make use of historical experiences, point out social, and legal hazards, and the already empiric perceptible, and literary processed potentials bundle up to a new ars moriendi, and make it fertile for everyday life. The researchers want to include further disciplines like pastoral care, or medicine ethics in future phases of the project. 

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