Today is the last in this year’s Dying Matters Week 2019, with a topic of Diversity and Inclusion at end of life.

Everyone living with a terminal illness should have access to high-quality palliative care, and to be treated with dignity and respect. 

However, various research studies have shown that too many people are not able to access end of life services this includes people from economically deprived areas, with non-cancer conditions, who do not have a carer, and/or who are from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.

The reasons for this are complex and include language barriers, cultural and religious preferences and a lack of confidence that health care professionals meet sensitively meet their needs.

This article from 2017 describes the diversity crisis in end of life care.

It looks at the various organisations working to improve the situation with author Tracy Bleakley stating that,

‘Public bodies at national and local levels have an important role to play in encouraging more open and honest conversations about dying, death and bereavement.’ 

The following information from Marie Curie provides advice and support to professionals working with patients in the LGBT community.

Caring for LGBT people at the end of life

This is an informative read for anyone working in the healthcare sector or for anyone with LGBT family members or close friends.

The following is very helpful guidance taken from the article that all of us could apply to our day to day lives:

  • Avoid making assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Use inclusive language – ask if someone has a partner, rather than a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Instead of asking someone who their family is, or who their next of kin is, ask them who’s important to them and who they would like to be involved in their care. This may include partners, family members, and friends.
  • Involve partners and others important to the person in their care as much as the person would like them to be.
  • Ask someone what pronouns they use. This could be he/him, she/her, they/them or others. You can tell them what pronouns you prefer as well.
  • If a trans person uses a name that is different from the name on their records, make sure you use the name that they prefer.
  • Be aware that someone may have had difficult experiences in the past including homophobic, biphobic or transphobic abuse. Be sensitive and tactful.
  • If someone tells you their sexual orientation or gender identity, they may not want you to tell others. Ask them for their consent before sharing information with colleagues or writing it in their care plan.
  • Be familiar with terms that people may use to identify their sexual orientation and gender identity. If you’re unsure what they mean, sensitively ask them to explain. Common terms that people to describe themselves use can change over time, so keep up to date.

Every year Dying Matters week offers us a unique opportunity to highlight the importance of talking about dying, death and bereavement. 

This year’s theme of #AreWeReady allowed us to start the conversation and the various themes of the week helped guide these conversations.

The challenge now is to keep the conversations going throughout the year so we see a societal change in our approach to death and dying.


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