This symposium adopts a cross-disciplinary approach to on-going debates on end-of-life care. Medical professionals, lawyers, ethicists, policy makers, humanities scholars, cultural practitioners and patient representatives will come together to consider what it might mean in today’s world to ‘die well’.


Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931) Image by [Foreign Affairs].

The springboard for this event is Arthur Schnitzler’s medical drama Professor Bernhardi (1912), which will be performed in a new adaptation at Barts Pathology Museum on 23-25 September. The play focuses on a Jewish doctor who prevents a Catholic priest from giving the last rites to a patient who is unaware that she is dying, and takes a wry look at some of the ways in which death is embroiled in wider social structures: cultural, political and religious. The symposium takes up key questions posed by Schnitzler’s unlikely comedy and explores them from a contemporary perspective, in four panels addressing socio-cultural responses to the challenges of biomedicine; bodily practices and embodied knowledge; faith, conscience and the role of doctors; and current institutional perspectives on end-of-life care. Distinguished speakers include Baroness Ilora Finlay, Professor Jonathan Montgomery and Dr Samir Guglani.

Theatre performance and symposium both take place in Barts Pathology Museum in London’s West Smithfield, at the heart of the historic Barts Hospital site. This remarkable space, in which over 5000 medical specimens are displayed, is not normally accessible to the public. The symposium is a collaboration between the Schnitzler Digital Edition Project, based at the Universities of Cambridge, Bristol and UCL; UCL Health Humanities Centre; and the theatre company Foreign Affairs. The symposium is open to the public and includes a performance of Arthur Schnitzler’s Professor Bernhardi by Foreign Affairs theatre company on 25 September 2015. Registration is now open. Programme and further details are available on the symposium website.


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