Retrieving the ars moriendi tradition

Med Health Care Philos. 2007 Sep;10(3):313-9. doi: 10.1007/s11019-006-9045-z. Epub 2007 Jan 11.


North Atlantic culture lacks a commonly shared view on dying well that helps the dying, their social environment and caregivers to determine their place and role, interpret death and deal with the process of ethical deliberation. What is lacking nowadays, however, has been part of Western culture in medieval times and was known as the ars moriendi (art of dying well) tradition. In this paper an updated version of this tradition is presented that meets the demands of present day secularized and multiform society. Five themes are central to the new art of dying: autonomy and the self, pain control and medical intervention, attachment and relations, life balance and guilt, death and afterlife. The importance of retrieving the ancient ars moriendi outreaches the boundaries of palliative medicine, since it deals with issues that play a central role in every context of medical intervention and treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel / ethnology*
  • Attitude to Death / ethnology*
  • Europe
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Medicine in the Arts
  • Palliative Care / history
  • Palliative Care / psychology
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Philosophy, Medical / history*
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics
  • Terminally Ill / history
  • Terminally Ill / psychology*