Conference Agenda

Maria Pia Donato: Medicine and Religion at the Deathbed. Reflections on Death, Dying and the Doctors in Early Modern Europe
Friday, 10/Sept/2021:
5:00pm - 6:15pm

Session Chair: Prof. Kaat Wils, KU Leuven

Session Abstract

Presenters Profile :

Maria Pia Donato is CNRS Research Professor at Institut d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine in Paris. She teaches the history of medicine at ENS and EHESS in Paris. Her research focuses on early modern cultural history, the history of medicine and the history of science, especially in a Catholic context. Her publications include Sudden Death. Medicine and Religion in 18th-Century Rome (2014, translation of the original Italian edition of 2010); Médecine et religion. Compétitions, collaborations, conflits XIIe-XXe siècles (ed. with al., 2013); Medicine and the Inquisition in the Early Modern World (ed. 2019).

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Medicine and Religion at the Deathbed. Reflections on Death, Dying and the Doctors in Early Modern Europe

Donato, Maria Pia

CNRS, Institut d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine, France

Death and dying have long been a fully fledged research object for historians. Since the 1960s, at a time when medicine was profoundly changing Western conceptions of, and approaches to, the end of life, historians, historians of medicine, ethicists and specialists of religious studies have delved into the relations between medicine and religion with regard to death. The ethics and etiquette at the deathbed, and the attitudes towards life and death have been investigated in a historical perspective in the wake of historiens de la mentalité like Philippe Ariès and Michel Vovelle.

In dealing with the conflicts between physicians and ecclesiastics in face of the dying in the early modern period, historians usually point at the very limited autonomy of medicine vis-à-vis religion until, in the late eighteenth century, Enlightenment culture and the secularization of European society entailed a more active stance of physicians on the end of life.

The aim of this talk is to survey recent scholarship and revisit the relation of medicine and religion at the deathbed from three standpoints - palliative care, active euthanasia and resuscitation – with a view to offering a more nuanced understanding of how early modern physicians dealt with death and dying.