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End-of-life Study to Focus on Needs of Sikh and Muslim Patients

June 26, 2005

A new project to help terminally ill Sikh and Muslim patients to have ‘a good death’ sensitive to their cultural and religious beliefs is to begin at the University of Edinburgh. The research — the first in-depth study of its kind– will aim to identify ways in which health professionals can better understand the palliative care needs of minorities and give patients the opportunity to die with dignity.

The project will focus on Edinburgh, Lothian and Glasgow and will involve20-25 patients and their main family carers to capture the evolving experiences of those with such conditions as terminal cancer, or heart, lung or kidney failure. The patients will be recruited from GPs, hospices, hospitals and from Indian and Pakistani community centres. The two year project will be funded by the Chief Scientist Office.

Professor Aziz Sheikh, who will lead the two-year project, said: “The introduction of palliative care into health care is a relatively recent phenomenon, and even now these services are mainly focused on the needs of elderly people dying from cancer. However, migrant communities in Britain are typically younger and have proportionately higher death rates from diseases not related to cancer.

“No effective national provisions are in place for training of healthcare professionals in transcultural medicine, and few professionals will therefore have any real opportunity to learn about death rites in different cultures. Why is it that a middle aged Muslim daughter insists on maintaining a day and night hospital vigil of her dying mother? Or why might Sikh patients with a terminal condition have such large numbers of friends and relatives visiting them during their final illness? The importance of these and other rites of passage need to be understood by caregivers.”

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