Death is an important subject on many levels. Statistics about death – death rates and the causes of death – provide a public way to measure how well a society is doing, so information about death tells the rest of the world about a nation’s health. Death is an intensely private affair and one we all have to face at some point – both through the death of others and our own death. Ceremonies and rites of passage to mark death are also an inescapable feature of every society and they differ around the world:
The way in which people are cared for at the end of life has risen to the top of the health care agenda in the UK – and practitioners are bound by policy to provide good palliative care to everyone who needs it. Central to end-of-life care in the UK and western societies is the modern hospice movement founded by Dame Cicely Saunders. Its holistic approach provided an alternative to seeing death as failure and placed the dying person at the centre of all treatment decisions and students consider to what extent this has succeeded.
The OU was one of the first if not THE first university to develop flexible, accessible learning to address the very challenging area of death and dying. The ideas addressed by OU materials around death and dying help students to recognise some of the more complex issues that face people involved in death, dying and bereavement including communication, ethical dilemmas, especially at the end of life, and different responses to bereavement. Our materials, informed by research, are full of real accounts of people's experiences in written, video and audio form which will help you to explore the usefulness of different ideas and approaches in practice.