Essay on Culture and Various Ideas on Good Death

Published: 2021/11/08
Number of words: 2060

Communities hold different beliefs on good death and what encompasses the concept. The differences are due to cultural diversity across many societies in the world. There is an urgent need to examine the idea of a good death, giving examples of communities in the world who hold some beliefs about death. To some, a good, death comes naturally after a lifetime that has been well spent (Eriksen, 2001). For instance, the United States and Japan are appropriate examples of post-industrial societies that can be used to show differences in cultural diversity. The differences in culture among two societies form the basis for differentiated beliefs on what good death is to many. The perception that the community holds on good death is dependent on their beliefs as shaped by cultural differences. Westernized countries have perceptions that are different from what holds in Anglophone countries. The paper aims to study the existent correlation between cultural differences and how they have influenced the understanding of good death (Eriksen, 2001).

Some communities regard a peaceful death as a good death since one dies free from distress and other issues. Peaceful death is welcomed by friends and family, with no ethical concerns on how one lost their life. Most people who die peacefully are the old who are satisfied with the way life has been (Van der Geest, 2004). For instance, people from Kwahu-Tafo, Ghana, believe that one dies peacefully only after they have finished all their business and made peace with friends and family (Van der Geest, 2004). Good death occurs naturally with no violence, no much pain, not by disease or any other foul means. To the residents of the town, such a death happens at home, where family and grandchildren surround one. Dying at home is an epitome of peacefulness for many people within the society. As such, it is essential to note that people have different perceptions on death based on their cultural background. A good death should be accepted by the family and friends of the deceased. For instance, the premature death of Afua Dunkwa in Kwahu-Tafo illustrates that culture plays a crucial role in shaping perceptions that many have about a good death. When one has died within a specific society, some rituals must be performed to give the individual a decent sendoff. Afua died prematurely, a factor that resulted in arguments on how her funeral would be done (Van der Geest, 2004). The perceptions that people have on a good death change from one community to another.

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Death should be natural and painless, according to people from Kwahu-Tafo. When an older adult dies at his home, many are at ease and are not kept worried as compared to when a young person dies in the hospital. This is because there is a perception that dying at home during old age gives one the peace that they enjoy. Cultural practices affect the understanding of various matters from one community to another, hence the notable diverse views on what good death is globally. For instance, the shaving of hair for close relatives to the deceased is an example of a cultural practice that is based on perception. Men would be drinking during the occasion while women would frenzy themselves in weeping. Also, there are beliefs about superstition within the Kwahu-Tafo society. When Afua dies, a possessed child claims to be her ghost and gives directions on what should be done. The question as to whether the dead appears in spirits can only be settled by one’s cultural beliefs, which are different across all communities. Van Der Geest conducts commendable work on the Kwahu-Tafu society’s beliefs on death that can be considered good or bad (Van der Geest, 2004).

Vital research conducted by McNamara concentrates on what holds in a westernized society of Australian nature. Communities that have high levels of multiculturalism have complex death narratives that are only based on the cultural background of an individual. In the research, the author expresses interest in areas that have seen improvement in the last few decades (McNamara, 2004). The hospice movement that used to a good death for patients is since changing to what can be termed as palliative care provision. People suffering from chronic diseases and other conditions that have no cure need the care to improve their health for a good death. Palliative care is fast taking most westernized communities by storm as many prefer it to hospice, which seems a bit hostile for the patient. It is a significant development that can be notable, especially within the Australian society. The development of palliative care has changed the notion of a good death in the Australian society, as McNamara asserts (McNamara, 2004). Much focus is laid on what constitutes a good death in a multicultural context such as the Australian society. Countries that have embraced palliative care for hospice include Japan, the US, and Australia. People with diseases such as cancer and HIV & AIDS can benefit from such schemes to achieve a good death.

McNamara tries to explain the concept of good enough death and perceptions that people hold in the Australian society on the same. Countries such as the United States are advanced to the extent of debating about euthanasia. When the family and friends of the individual have accepted the predictability of the patient’s health, they should accept their death. Palliative care is a significant advancement in the provision of holistic care towards those who are ailing from chronic disease and other fatal conditions (McNamara, 2004). Notably, many factors influence perceptions within the society, and there is a need to understand each cultural background in the provision of holistic care. A good death is a notion that many have depending on the eventuality of life that someone has had. According to McNamara, approaches that were applied earlier have proved inept and uncertain in facilitating good death. The fact that the Australian society has changed in the recent time is evidenced by the zeal to promote palliative care as a replacement for hospice. Death notions are different among communities based on their cultural beliefs and practices. Palliative care instills a concept of “something can be done” instead of “nothing can be done.” All practitioners should understand the differences in the notion of a good death in societies where they work. This can help many achieve the “good death,” which they so desire (McNamara, 2004).

Long in the year 2004 researched the differences and similarities in death perception for two westernized nations. The research identifies four significant scripts of dying well in the United States and Japan. The scripts in question include revivalism, anti-revivalism, modern medicine, and religious scripts. The author asserts that although the scripts are common in Anglophone countries, there is a need to understand that culture has played a crucial role in shaping perceptions on good death (Long, 2004). Different religious backgrounds have also contributed to the increased differences in perception of what constitutes a good death within the Japanese society and the rest of the world. Cultural practices in each society differ in one way or the other, which poses a challenge to understanding a good death for someone in a multicultural context. As such, palliative care providers should take into consideration such factors in their line of duty in a bid to facilitate a good death for a patient (Long, 2004). The interpretation that one accords such indicators within the society depends on their cultural upbringing and societal norms. Post-industrial technology in such countries has impacted the provision of holistic care to patients in a positive way. A good death is a notion shaped by what one holds, depending on cultural background.

Both the United States and Japan share some similarities in their ways of life to some extent. However, there are differences notable in the perceptions that each society holds regarding the death of someone. The United States is an example of a country that has undergone a massive cultural transition as people from different backgrounds inhabit it. The result is the emergence of palliative care as a way of handling hospice patients. For instance, what one holds in Japan might be different from what an individual holds in the States (Long, 2004). As such, the differences in the environment, culture, and religious beliefs evoke different perceptions within the society. Good death implies a peaceful rest after one has achieved most of his dreams and is at peace with all family members. As Long asserts in his work, post-industrial communities such as the United States and Japan offer comprehensive frameworks that explain the notion of a good death. Some have set standards for the nature of good death that they would want to have based on what holds for them. In westernized communities, some individuals give directions on what they expect to be done once they are dead. Such instructions include the place of burial, rituals to be conducted, and other cultural practices based on their own beliefs.

Recent studies on good death indicate that people have changed their notions depending on what they expect of life. For instance, those who are deeply rooted in religion have their definition and perception of what comprises good death. In Anglophone countries, superstition and other factors matter in explaining death. Some communities believe in performing specific rituals in honor of the dead before burial. Others, especially within the westernized nations, never value such that much indicating the rift between the two societies (Eriksen, 2001). However, there is a possibility that globalization and technology will change the face of healthcare and the provision of care. Good death will be based on dying free from distress and pain. Cultural differences all over the world are a major cause of variations in perceptions, as exhibited in many studies. When contemplating a good death within a community, some aspects are taken into account, including a preference for a specific dying process, religious or spiritual element, emotional well-being, and life completion. However, to some, a good death constitutes treatment preferences, dignity, family support, quality of life, and relationship with healthcare providers, among others.

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Death will always exist in the community, and it is the role of practitioners to ensure that patients are treated with dignity and accorded deserved respect. In so doing, one could improve the quality of life they are living even though they understand their fate (Eriksen, 2001). Engaging the patient in the provision of care can prove helpful in facilitating good death within the Anglophone societies. Engaging patients makes them understand their situation, which is essential in coping up with medication. The examples provided from Kwahu-Tafo, Japanese, Australian, and the United States illustrate how different societies have different beliefs on a good death. Philosophers should direct more time and energy to ensure that the missing gap of information is filled for a better understanding. Culture directly affects the perceptions that a community holds regarding death.

To sum it up, a good death is a perception that people in a community hold depending on their cultural upbringing. Dying free from distress and being at peace with everyone in the society is considered a good death to many. Various communities have various backgrounds culturally, which makes them exhibit differentiated perceptions of a good death. Also, the introduction of palliative care as a replacement for hospice treatment is a significant development in the post-industrial nations. To some in the community, a good death depends on whether they have fulfilled their anticipations. For instance, some individuals prefer that they die in a specific process. Such ideas are incepted through cultural-based interactions that shape personality. Understanding of various cultural differences can help shape the idea of a good death, especially in Anglophone countries. Failure to understand the scope of palliative care and a good death can lead to a misconception of the idea within the community.


Eriksen, T. H. (2001). Small places, large issues: An introduction to social and cultural anthropology. London: Pluto Press.

Long, S. O. (2004). Cultural scripts for a good death in Japan and the United States: similarities and differences. Social Science & Medicine58(5), 913-928.

McNamara, B. (2004). Good enough death: autonomy and choice in Australian palliative care. Social science & medicine58(5), 929-938.

Van der Geest, S. (2004). Dying peacefully: considering good death and bad death in Kwahu-Tafo, Ghana. Social science & medicine58(5), 899-911.

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