Health professionals must carefully consult the family to ensure death and burial or cremation are handled appropriately.
The Palliative Care Council of South Australia’s Multicultural Palliative Care Guidelines provides detailed guidance for health professionals working with patients and families from different religions. It emphasises the importance of the family as the main source of comfort and support, assisted for many by their religious institutions. In some refugee communities, the wider community assists with funeral arrangements and joins strongly ritualistic procedures. Rituals provide structure and comfort to many and are most important at a time of bereavement. Being cut off from these traditional support systems increases the sense of helplessness felt amongst those bereaved.
Some refugees are deeply religious, and for many their religion has a key role to play in supporting them as a terminally ill patient or as a friend or family member. Like many people, some refugees may not think of themselves as religious yet, when faced with a life-threatening illness or death, place greater importance on religious practices, beliefs and rituals.
In some religions and cultures, for example:
Should the deceased die without family or community to manage the funeral, hospitals or the local council will organise the funeral and burial. They are expected to take into account the cultural beliefs of the deceased. Representatives of the patient’s faithshould be consulted and invited to conduct the service in accordance with that faith. The location of the service and burial or cremation should also be appropriate to the deceased’s faith.
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