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Handbooks Courses Units

LAW7431 - Death dying and the courts

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Law

Leader: Professor Ian Freckelton


City (Melbourne) Term 2 2008 (Evening)


This unit addresses the distinctions between life and death. It explores the following hot spots under the law and:

  • Analyses evolving attitudes toward death
  • Identifies key decisions about tissues with a value for transplants and post-mortem reproduction
  • Identifies debates about persistent vegetative states, when life support can be turned off or withheld and reviews suicide and euthanasia law, comparing the NT initiative with those in Europe and the US
  • Reviews the coroner's role as an investigator of death, inquest procedures and exhumation and autopsy law
  • Queries coroners as public health officials
  • Reviews law reform proposals
  • Explores the viatical industry and wrongful life actions.


  • Understanding of distinctions in law between life and death;
  • Awareness of relationship between contemporary attitudes toward death and the approach of the law toward death;
  • Understanding of the concept and repercussions of the body as property, in a variety of contexts including burial, cremation, organ donation and post-mortem reproduction;
  • Sophisticated understanding of the relevance to the law of persistent vegetative states and the law of euthanasia;
  • Understanding of law of no further resuscitation;
  • Awareness of the role of the coroner as an investigator of death;
  • Understanding of coronial practices, findings, and recommendations;
  • Awareness of coronial law reform;
  • Acquaintance with the viatical industry;
  • Understanding of wrongful life actions


One research assignment (3,750 words): 50%
One take-home examination (3,750 words): 50%

Contact hours

Students enrolled in this unit will be provided with 24 contact hours of seminars per semester whether intensive, semi-intensive, or semester-long offering. Students will be expected to do reading set for class, and to undertake additional research and reading applicable to a 6 credit point unit.





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