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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Death and the Law (LAWS10238)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis is an interdisciplinary course on the relations between law and death. Students will gain an understanding of the principles, policies and values underlying the laws dealing with death, and will reflect on the impact of such principles and policies on both the dead and the living, and on matters of intergenerational equality.

In exploring the relations between death and law, this course invites students to take both a functional and holistic approach. The course further takes a historical, theoretical, and comparative approach. It explores different conceptions of death and their legal consequences and examines the extent to which individuals can shape what happens after their death and influence the lives of those whom they leave behind.

Students will thus study when human beings are dead for the purposes of the law but also ways in which law enables certain dimensions of the personhood of a person who is biologically dead to live on (including but not only through their digital presence).
Students will further explore how far private autonomy reaches not just in determining their own afterlife (eg through decisions about posthumous procreation, organ donations, burial matters and the disposition of their estate), but also in determining the life of others (for instance through dead hand control). The course thus complements other courses, including those on the law of succession.
Course description This course will be taught in 10 seminars. Below is an outline of the provisional teaching programme:

Seminar 1: Introduction - Defining the boundaries between life and death
Seminar 2: Different conceptions of death
Seminar 3: Being biologically alive but dead for the law
Seminar 4: Posthumous interests/rights beyond biological death?
Seminar 5: Digital life beyond biological death

Seminar 6: Life after death: body parts
Seminar 7: Life after death: the body
Seminar 8: Life after death: the estate
Seminar 9: Dead hand control
Seminar 10: The vulnerable dead?
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Succession and Trust Law (LAWS08130) AND Property Law (Ordinary) (LAWS08133)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThis course is only open to visiting students coming through a direct exchange with the School of Law (including Erasmus students on a Law-specific Exchange). Exchange students outside of Law and independent study abroad students are not eligible to enrol in this course, with no exceptions.

**Please note that 3rd year Law courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.**
Priority will be given to students studying on exchange within the Law department, and it is highly unlikely that there will be additional spaces for general exchange students & independent study abroad students to enrol; we will look into this on a case-by-case basis in September/January. Visiting students are advised to bear in mind that enrolment in specific courses can never be guaranteed, and you may need to be flexible in finding alternatives in case your preferred courses have no available space.

These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.

Succession and Trusts (LAWS08130) and Property Law (LAWS08133) or equivalent
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course will be assessed by way of an essay (100%).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students will obtain a critical understanding of the core principles and debates surrounding matters of death and the rationale underpinning current laws. They will further develop experience in applying comparative methodologies to an area of private law that is traditionally said to defy comparison.
  2. Students will develop the skills of working independently in the critical analysis of legal materials across different jurisdictions. They will become familiar with reading primary case law and statutory sources but also secondary literature across the common and civil law traditions. They will further become familiar with readings drawn from history, economics, sociology and anthropology.
  3. Students will develop an autonomous engagement with primary and secondary common and civil law sources. They will further develop an ability to engage with theoretical questions, as well as with policy debates.
  4. By interactive discussion, students will learn the value of shared dialogue to the formation and refinement of their thinking. The will also develop an ability to formulate considered questions, to articulate connected explanations, and a sensitivity to terminological issues in the field.
  5. Confidence in handling and discussing complex legal materials across civil and common law jurisdictions, and, sophisticated use of primary and secondary materials written, and the ability to articulate their meaning both orally and in writing.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Keywordslaw,death,succession,burial matters,organ donations,dead hand control,posthumous rights
Course organiserProf Alexandra Braun
Tel: (0131 6)51 5560
Course secretaryMiss Susie Morgan
Tel: (0131 6)50 2339
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