Donna Wilson is a Registered Nurse, Professor Emerita at the University of Alberta and adjunct professor at the University of Limerick. She gained a 3-year nursing diploma, BSN degree (University of Alberta), MSN degree majoring in gerontology and healthcare management (University of Texas at Austin), and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Administration majoring in management, teaching, and research (University of Alberta). Donna’s program of research focuses on health services and health policy, primarily in relation to aging and end-of-life care, including bereavement. Her work is oriented to myth busting, to eliminate ageism and ensure effective and accessible healthcare services for all people. Her investigations often involve population data and mixed-methods research. She has over 400 published articles, books, book chapters, and other peer-reviewed communications in print. She is frequently and widely consulted for expert commentary on aging, end-of-life care, bereavement, health policy, healthcare services, and health system trends.
End-of-life (EOL) care practices vary considerably between cultures, based on social and religious norms or taboos. As more highly diverse people immigrate to Canada and to other countries, it becomes increasingly important for family physicians, nurses, and many other providers to plan for and provide culturally-appropriate EOL care. What happens before, during, and after dead is extremely important to family members, terminally-ill people, and every society.
A scoping review of grey and published material identified preferred practices and also practices to avoid as death nears, at the time of death, and following death for 10 different cultural groups who are relatively new immigrants to Canada: The Philippines, India, China/Hong Kong, Pakistan, Vietnam, Mexico, Korea, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Lebanon.
Significant differences were noted across these groups, often related to religious or spiritual beliefs and social customs. For example, people from Muslim cultures recite verses from the Holy Koran or have it read to them when dying; however, people who are not Muslim should not read this holy text to the dying person. Openly talking about death and dying is another subject that varied between cultural groups, with this related to social norms. It is taboo to talk about death for 8/10 groups; yet open conversations about death and dying is an accepted and encouraged practice in Mexico and Pakistan. Some similarities were noted across all 10 groups, including the importance of involving family members in EOL decision-making and enabling them to care for their dying loved one.
Although there were some similarities, many differences were noted. Case-by-case individualized care may be essential for appropriate EOL care, as EOL practices not only differ by culture, but they also can change over time and they can also vary between families.