Background When a child dies, the interactions between medical professionals and parents are remembered clearly and impact significantly both positively and negatively on the family’s grieving process and eventual recovery. In our richly multi-cultural society it is an increasing challenge to provide sensitive, appropriate bereavement care.
Aims To determine whether paediatric doctors have basic knowledge of the cultural practices during end of life care associated with the five main religious affiliations present in our community (Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and No Religion).
Methods An electronic questionnaire was sent to all paediatric trainees and consultants working in hospitals in one training sector of the UK. A combination of case based multiple choice questions and single answer questions were used. Results were collated anonymously.
Results 111 (28%) of questionnaires were returned. Most doctors were able to identify Faith Leaders of Islam and Judaism (83% and 81% respectively), and identify support for those of no specific religious affiliation, however only 5% of respondents could name a Faith Leader for Hinduism. Regarding actions at the time of death; Christian rituals were best understood (66%) followed by Islamic (54%), Hindu (44%) and Jewish (30%) traditions. Only 28% of respondents were aware that organ donation is not strictly forbidden in any of these religions. Overall, there was no relationship between training grade and cultural knowledge.
Conclusions As doctors we are not well informed about the predominant religious needs of our community. This is likely to impact adversely on our ability to offer appropriate bereavement care to parents. Our false beliefs about barriers to organ donation may also prevent us from offering this opportunity to newly bereaved parents. We plan to produce a nationally available training package in order to equip paediatric doctors with the knowledge to provide high quality, culturally sensitive end of life care.
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