Seeing-off of dead bodies at death discharges in Japan

Medical Humanities 39 (2):131-136 (2013)
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Abstract

For most death discharge patients, hospitals in Japan offer seeing-off services, a practice characteristic of Japanese culture. When a patient dies, nurses usually perform after-death procedures before transferring the body to the mortuary, where the nurses and doctors gather to provide the seeing-off service. This study was carried out to determine differences between the nurses’ and bereaved families’ opinions and thoughts regarding the seeing-off service. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 nurses and 6 bereaved families . The interviews assessed: the reasons why nurses provided seeing-off services; thoughts during the seeing-off service; impressions of the mortuary rituals; and the necessity for the seeing-off service. The results indicated that nurses expressed their courtesy and sense of appreciation during the seeing-off service, which was recognised as an important nursing role. In contrast, bereaved families felt thankful but also doubtful, particularly as regards the mortuary rituals. In light of the differences in perspective between nurses and families, it may be that the level of satisfaction with the seeing-off service is largely affected by the relationship between the family and the medical professionals before the patient's death. Our study also notes that Japanese people respect the dead body and treat it with care, reflecting the unique culture and customs of Japan

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