On Syllabi, End of Life, & Feminism

A few things that have caught my attention around the web over the last week. Some old, some new. All worth giving a look.

The Open Syllabus Project
A recent NYTimes piece on the democratization of syllabus information via the Open Syllabus Project caught my eye. The project collects, catalogues and codes all the syllabi it can get its hands on, and uses the information to inform teaching, publication and intellectual history. I’m interested in the ways in which it might both standardize and diversify the content we’re teaching across disciplines, and draw more indelible marks between subjects for a more holistic educational experience. How might this data help to break down silos for both learners and teachers?

How We Used to Die
Highlighted by the exopermaculture blog, physician Louis Profeta contrasts the way we used to die–in our homes, with our families, aware and deliberate–to the ways we allude death now. He describes the monitors, buzzers, buttons and tubes that surround end-of-life efforts to keep a body churning, even while the person inside has departed. From the students and alumni of MHCDS, I hear the heart-wrenching dissonance that accompanies this kind of effort, for both the families and the medical caretakers involved. What is best, and for whom? What constitutes harm and qualifies care? And how do we know, from either side of the gurney, what the person reaching their end of life would want? Beyond the personal implications of these questions, end-of-life care has become a veritable third rail in health care, and a tremendously expensive quagmire for the system we all support. Efforts like those in La Crosse, WI are aiming to change the tenor of conversations about death so we can meet these transitions with integrity, grace and confidence. A physician once urged me, as a young woman, to address and document my wishes in the event of my demise. She explained that, as a group, young women are among those least likely to have articulated their wishes, and most likely to have others impose their own wishes upon them. Completing my advance directive documentation is on my year’s list of to-dos.

Hysterical Females
…and on the topic of healthcare for women, this from Patti Digh. She describes her experience of a blood clot and heart attack being diagnosed, repeatedly, as anxiety. Were it not for her persistence, stubbornness and unwillingness to be bullied by the medical profession, she would not have received care in time. What’s most alarming to me is the throng of women who write in the comments about near identical experiences. Bottom line for patients: know yourself, and reject the notion of the “difficult” patient. Bottom line for clinicians: listen to your patients.

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