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End of life care in ethnic minorities

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 25 February 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:a2989
  1. Mark R D Johnson, professor of diversity in health and social care
  1. 1Mary Seacole Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester LE2 1RQ
  1. mrdj{at}

    Providers need to overcome their fear of dealing with people from different backgrounds

    A clear measure of the quality of a society—as Gandhi is claimed to have said—is the way it treats people approaching the end of their life. In today’s society there is evidence that members of ethnic minority groups and minority faiths are rarely afforded the comfort of specialised palliative care.1 This is particularly ironic because one of the most famous images of hospice work is that of the Albanian nun and Indian citizen, Mother Theresa, at work in the slums of Calcutta.

    Health professionals who refer patients to palliative care often think that hospices are Christian places where Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus would not feel at home and that palliative carers are not “culturally competent.”2 This is a misperception because most palliative care staff are keen and able to meet the needs of everyone in our multicultural society. Nevertheless, problems remain, and education or support is needed for both service providers and communities.

    In the …

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