This article describes what an end-of-life doula is, the training involved and how these individuals can help someone achieve the death they want, reflecting on a role that has existed traditionally in communities for centuries without formal recognition. How end-of-life doulas work holistically but also practically will be considered, outlining how keeping the dying person's preferences and wishes at the heart of their care is the primary aim. Recent issues such as advance care planning, digital legacy and Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) will be reflected on through the lens of the end-of-life doula, with the aim of encouraging open discussion and death oracy as a life skill and creating a space to make choices about the end of life. Also explored is how an end-of-life doula works within an integrative model of healthcare, working in partnership with health professionals.
‘Dying is not an act you can easily undertake yourself. If being born amid those who will love you is the first best hope of life, dying within a community is the last’
Most people have heard of a birth doula and understand the concept of a coach or supporter during childbirth, particularly if the woman is labouring for the first time. The end-of-life doula works in exactly the same way for a person who is dying (Moss and Johnston, 2019). They are there as an informed companion, accompanying, witnessing and being present with the dying person. The doula role is founded on knowing the dying person well and being able to help them to express their needs about their own dying, whether they are emotional, practical, physical or spiritual (Fersko-Weiss, 2017; Kellehear, 2021). End-of-life doulas are facilitative and not prescriptive, keeping the dying person and the people that they love at the centre of the death experience.
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