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Home Birth – Home Death

Posted on Monday 20th September 2010 by Louise Carron Harris

I was reading the latest update on the Palliative care blog – Dying at Home Is Better For Cancer Patients and Their Families

It got me thinking about birth and death – such ends of the spectrum, yet both as important to plan for.  Both in Birth and in Death, it’s our choice to choose the care we want, with or without the aid of doctors, hospitals and bureaucracy… isn’t it?

In Birth, women are advised to write a ‘birth plan’ as a general guideline for the midwives and doctors to ensure a labouring mother gets the care she wishes. It contains info such as: home or hospital birth, drugs or not etc.

In Death some people have a living will, often very simple documents stating personal preferences on resuscitation and the administration of life prolonging drugs., However these days you can find more comprehensive  documents outlining your options.  Fantastic Funerals and our sister company Sentiment Farewells both offer a more detailed Living Will section in their pre-planning documents, thus opening the door to discussing more details about death wishes, including desires to be at home or in hospital.

Home comforts:

Home choices can often be limited due to care options, scaremongering and trends. However in the case of births, The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) support home births for women stating “There is ample evidence showing that labouring at home increases a woman’s likelihood of a birth that is both satisfying and safe, with implications for her health and that of her baby” .

And it seems this is the same in death as it is for birth: A new study confirms what hospice professionals have known for years:  dying at home is better –both for the cancer patient and his/her family.  The study, reported in the September 13th issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that cancer patients who die in the hospital have worse quality of life than those who die at home.  The study also found that caregivers of patients who die in the ICU are at an increased risk for developing psychiatric illnesses during the bereavement process, like PTSD.

At present more than 80 per cent of people express a wish to die in the comfort of their own home. But 60 per cent end up dying in hospital.

*With both of my babies, I requested a home birth because it felt the safest and most natural choice for me, as it turns out medically this was not possible, but I always felt empowered that I had that option. In death I feel the same , that we should all be aware of our options and of our rights to die at home… If we so choose.

Your Comments

There are 2 responses to “Home Birth – Home Death”

  1. Tuesday 21st September 2010 at 12:35 pm
    Charles Cowling says:

    You make a powerful and humane case. And I guess your own experience makes the point that it’s only possible to make decisions on a case-by-case basis according to circs. The option ought to be there for everyone. At the same time, the stats they never quote are 1. if you poll people who have lived with someone dying at home, a lot less than 80% think it’s a good idea to die at home themselves; and, 2, though people happily put their signature to an ADRT when they’re feeling chipper, a good many of them countermand it when offered a desperate last-minute intervention. Conclusion: home is best if poss; hosp is best if not. What hospitals need to get their heads around is palliative care and hey, doctor, leave those guys alone! They’re dying! It’s what we do at the last! It’s cool!

    Have you heard this joke:

    Q. Why do they nail the lid of the coffin down?

    a. To keep the oncologist out.

  2. Thursday 4th November 2010 at 11:46 am
    Katie Deverell says:

    I have just conducted a funeral for a lady whose dearest wish was to die at home and with the support of her family and Macmillan nurses she achieved it. We talkled about it in the ceremony! As someone who had their second child at home I think there is a lot in what you say. I am sure it helped my daughter bond so quickly with her brother as she ran downstairs to see him the minute he arrived! Being in my own environment made such a difference to me and I have also been wondering about the need for a home death as well as home birth movement.

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