Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Final Project Sample Proposal # 4


If it has not happened to you or someone you know, then you have probably heard stories about it: the unsuspected diagnosis of cancer or some other life-limiting disease, the frantic phone calls to find out as much as possible about the disease and potential treatments, the desire to cram and complete undone activities into an excruciatingly small time frame, the tears, the acceptance, the hospital, the funeral, the loneliness. Another scenario with which you might be familiar is the unsuspected diagnosis of cancer or some other life limiting disease, keeping the information a secret, the denial, the heroic effort to not burden family members, letting the disease take control, giving into and giving up, and allowing the unseen and unspoken elephant (death) in the room grow larger and larger. Both scenarios lack one crucial component: an open dialogue about what is happening that includes interactive participation from both patient and family members.

The fact is that the American society is renowned for planning. We plan for vacations, weddings, births, graduations and other milestones of life. We plan our clothing, hairstyles, meals and social calendars. We plan our education, our careers, our money, our volunteer work and our celebrations. Conspicuously absent from this list, however, is the one thing that the vast majority of Americans don't plan for; the event that we seem to think will, with the proper amount of ignoring, not happen. The one thing that could, with just the smallest attention to detail be changed from a sorrowful, rigid and frightening experience into one of warmth, celebration and comfort. The thing that we are perpetually afraid of and don't want to deal with, which in turn creates more fear; the thing that is as sure as tomorrow's sunset and that will touch every single person who ever draws breath. What are we so afraid to confront? Death.

My thesis asserts that through education we, individually and as a collective body, can greatly reduce the angst associated with death and break the fear/denial cycle that pervades our society. When we are educated about our options and choose to live and chart the course of our final months and days, instead of blindly reacting to the end of our bodily functions, we can design and direct a meaningful legacy for those who care for us and who will be living when we no longer are. When we fully consider all the facets and come to grips with the realities of our physical and spiritual states of being, our death (or a loved one's) can become an encounter to remember for its positive aspects. The objective of this final project is to provide information about death and dying issues, particularly the Hospice philosophy and associated services, to those who would like to have the knowledge to direct the process, not be directed by the process.

Throughout my MALS studies, I gravitated to topics that deal with psychology and sociology, those topics concerned with why and how humans perceive, process and react to the world around them. The Introduction to Liberal Studies course, in particular a book by John Stilgoe entitled Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places, challenged me to contemplate the world with respect to how much we take for granted, never notice or simply never stop to investigate. The class discussions of the book encouraged me to ask questions and to observe, with wonder, the ways in which we can participate in life and thereby write the script the way we want it to read. In addition, several philosophy and religion courses have allowed me to explore different perspectives of the spiritual side of life and death. The death of an in-law during this time had a profound effect on me and in part served to help me affirm the conclusions I had been formulating during the years of her illness; death does not have to accompanied by anxiety and fear if we educate ourselves and plan the journey to death just as we plan for other events in our lives.

In December 2003, certain that death and dying would be the area of my final project, I initiated a meeting with the volunteer director of Lower Cape Fear Hospice to discuss ways in which my final project work could benefit their organization. At that time there were no specific long-range research needs and we, therefore, decided to assess their needs closer to the semester in which the final project would occur. We met twice in December 2004 to determine the current greatest area of need that would have the highest level of impact. What emerged was the idea for a one-day community conference for lay persons, which will deal with the various issues surrounding end of life concerns; a "Hopsice 101" of sorts. In addition, I participated in a public radio interview about Hospice, which aired in early January 2005.

The methodology for this project will include researching why the American society views death with such trepidation when other cultures embrace death as a natural event. The Hospice philosophy is widely understood in other countries, yet only one-quarter of Americans are familiar with or opt to utilize the services that Hospice offers. The roots of the Hospice "movement" will be another area of research. In addition, personal interviews with individuals and families who have and have not used a local Hospice will provide personal insight. The primary outcome of this research will be the one-day community educational conference. This conference, under the auspices of Lower Cape Fear Hospice and LifeCareCenter, will be open and free to the public. The purpose of the conference is to provide non-medical and non-professional members of the general public information about end of life issues, options and services that are available. The goal, through education, is to foster and promote a change of perspective on death and dying.

The preliminary bibliography includes personal meetings with staff members of Lower Cape Fear Hospice and LifeCareCenter and the following books, journals and associations:


Berger, Badham, Kutscher, Berger, Perry and Beloff, ed. Perspectives on Dying: Cross-

Cultural and Multi-Disciplinary Views. Philadelphia : The Charles Press, 1989.

Clark, David, ed. The Sociology of Death . Oxford : Blackwell, 1993.

Corr, Charles A., Nabe, Clyde M., Corr, Donna M. Death and Dying: Life and Living .

USA : Thomson Wadsworth , 2003.

Haley, James, ed. Death and Dying: Opposing Viewpoints . San Diego : Greenhaven

Press, 2003.

Kubler-Ross, M.D., Elisabeth. On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach

Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families. . New York : Simon & Schuster,


Kuhl, M.D., David. What Dying People Want. New York : Public Affairs, 2002.

Munley, I.H.M., Anne. The Hospice Alternative: A New Context for Death and Dying .

New York : Basic Books, 1983.

Nuland, M.D., Sherwin B. How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter. New York :

Vintage Books, 1993.

Siebold, Cathy. The Hospice Movement: Easing Death's Pains . New York : Twayne,


Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Journal of the American Medical Association

The American Association on Aging

Project Timeline :

December 2003 Approach Lower Cape Fear Hospice about MALS Final Project

December 2004 Meet with LCF Hospice to finalize collaboration for MALS

Final Project; tape interview for WHQR public radio

Week 1: 1/3-1/7 Complete written grant for conference funding

Week 2: 1/10-1/14 Research; submit grant proposal; radio interview airs

Week 3: 1/17-1/21 Meet with Hospice to plan Community Conference; research

Week 4: 1/24-1/28 Meet with Project Director; Research

Week 5: 1/31-2/6 Research and draft writing

Week 6: 2/7-2/11 Research and draft writing

Week 7: 2/14-18 Research and Draft writing

Week 8: 2/21-24 Research and Draft writing

Week 9: 2/28-3/4 Submit first draft to Director and Reader

Week 10: 3/7-3/11 Research and draft writing

Week 11: 3/14-3/18 Research and draft writing

Week 12: 3/21-3/25 Research and draft writing

Week 13: 3/28-4/1 Submit second draft to Director and Reader

Week 14: 4/4-4/8 Editing per suggestions of Director and Reader

Week 15: 4/11-4/15 Submit Final Paper

Week 16: 4/18-4/22 Prepare and Host Conference ( 4/23/05 )

Week 17: 4/25-4/29 Project Defense

Last Update: September 8, 2010