Support a patient’s death and dying ritual

What death and dying practices are contrary to your personal beliefs or chosen religious values? How will you support a patient’s death and dying rituals and practices, and still honor your own?


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Death and Dying Rituals

Despite the many advancements in science and technology, death is still inevitable. In all cultures, humans have established elaborate death and dying rituals. While some rituals serve the sole purpose of making the dying person more comfortable and then safely discard the body when they die, other rituals intend to prolong the person’s life, ward off evil spirits and to help the person’s soul proceed to the next life. Every culture approaches death differently, so it is vital to understand the perspective of both the family and the patient to provide the best care.

Before death, it is essential to discuss with both the patient and the family members about advance directives. Such discussions are difficult with people from certain cultures such as Buddhists or Native Hawaiians because they believe that talking about death brings bad luck (Houlebrooke, 2020). In such situations, it is challenging to formulate a clear action plan such as resuscitation, administration of antibiotics, or the withdrawal of life support. It is the medical practitioner’s responsibility to frame the questions about advanced directives in a way that respects these beliefs and to make the patients feel comfortable. Soon after a patient’s death, the family often takes on the role of discarding the body. In some cultures, organ donation before burial is unacceptable, since they view the body as a gift that should not endure tampering with (Cooper & Kierans, 2016). In such situations, the medic should respect the wishes of the family members and friends. After explaining the benefits of organ donation, the patients and their family members should make the final decision, and the health professional should respect it.

In conclusion, rituals are beneficial because they help families of dying patients to cope with grief and loss. As such, it is vital to support these rituals as a medical professional, to avoid conflict and provide comfort to patients and their families. Helping patients die in a manner in which they consider dignified is the responsibility of both medics and family members.


Cooper, J., & Kierans, C. (2016). Organ Donation, Ethnicity, and The Negotiation of Death: Ethnographic Insights from the UK. Mortality21(1), 1-18.

Houlbrooke, R. (Ed.). (2020). Death, Ritual, And Bereavement (Vol. 2). Routledge.

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