End of Life Care: The Importance of Culture and Ethnicity

by Jane Phillips

Apr 1, 2010
Despite Australia's cultural diversity, there is little doubt that ethnic minority groups continue to have less access to health care systems, let alone culturally appropriate care, including palliative and end of life care. Such disparity of access for all individuals requiring such care ignores a basic human right to live and die in comfort. This article will discuss some barriers that may limit people of different cultural backgrounds receiving appropriate palliative and end of life care, and provides some generic approaches that may assist general practitioners when considering care needs of people from different cultural backgrounds. It also highlights care issues that GPs may need to consider when providing terminal care for someone from a different cultural background.
  • Despite Australia's cultural diversity, there is little doubt that ethnic minority groups continue to have less access to health care systems, let alone culturally appropriate care, including palliative and end of life care.
  • Cultural diversity is associated with differing belief systems regarding death and dying.
  • General practitioners are challenged to provide medical care within the context of an individuals biopyschosocial needs.
  • Open communication aimed at understanding how each person's belief system shapes their palliative and terminal care needs forms the basis of optimal care.
  • Despite disparate beliefs, universal care needs valued at the end of life include the provision of comfort, appropriate communication between the patient and doctor, respect for spiritual beliefs, and the opportunity for the dying person to say goodbye.
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