Our attitudes to death and dying are shaped by many things. This includes our cultural beliefs, our experience of war, accidents and loss and our religious and spiritual beliefs. It is also influenced by the contribution that medicine makes to our health.
Australians now live longer than ever before. Advances in medicine and public health have increased our life expectancy. Many people are living into their eighties and nineties. People are now most likely to die of strokes, heart disease or dementia.
The capacity of modern medicine to cure many diseases, and manage many more has also changed our attitude to sickness and illness. A century ago most people were cared for while sick at home and some died from these illnesses. Today, most seriously ill people are treated in hospital. As a result fewer people in the community have direct experience of caring for those who are ill or dying.
Changes in employment and mobility have changed our community structures. Social isolation is more common. Families may no longer live near each other. At the same time there is a growing sense of an individual as a health consumer with the patient and family being an active contributor to health decisions and practices.
These influences have shaped the way we think about death and dying and how we organise care at the end-of-life. An article in the Ochsner Journal called Palliative Care in Australia (131kb pdf) expands on many of these issues.
Last updated 17 January 2017