Acceptance of Hospice Philosophy

Utilization of hospice care programs is not identical across racialized U.S. populations. African Americans utilize hospice services at a lower rate than do European Americans. Home death is often considered an ideal within the hospice philosophy. A good death is often characterized as one that takes place at home, surrounded by family and/or friends, with pain and symptoms under control, spiritual needs identified and met, and following appropriate good-byes. Traditionally, this ideal good death required giving up curative interventions. At the moment in U.S. history, the 1970s, when hospice care became a viable alternative, aggressive end-of-life interventions were commonplace, and efforts to secure patient participation in decision making were not yet fully realized. Thus, the home became a refuge from the ravages of hospital death. Even though the strict implementation of a six-month prognosis requirement for hospice is changing, it remains difficult to predict the terminal or near-terminal phase of common illnesses, particularly cardiac, pulmonary, and metabolic conditions, in contrast with cancer. Acknowledging that death is near may be particularly difficult. Home death may not be valued in ethnocultural groups where it is considered inappropriate, dangerous, or polluting to be around the dead. Among traditional Navajo, the dying were removed from the Hogan dwelling through a special door to a separate shed-like room to avoid the catastrophe of a death occurring in the Hogan, which would then have to be destroyed. Burial practices were organized to make certain that ghosts could not find their way back to the Hogan, and family members did not touch the dead body. This task was relegated to outsiders. These issues remain salient for those practicing in the Indian Health Service. In some Chinese immigrant communities a death at home may affect the value of a particular property on resale.

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