University holds Death Cafe

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On Tuesday, Week 4, the University will be holding a Death Café to mark Dying Matters Awareness Week, which runs throughout Week 4. The aim of a Death Café is to help people discuss topics which many would describe as “unmentionable.” The event is being organised by Lancaster University’s International Observatory for End of Life Care.

At the Death Café visitors can expect to be served drinks and cakes by the Observatory staff and students. The students – who all have a background in nursing, social work and other related fields – will also try to stimulate discussion around death and dying.

The event is being organised by Observatory staff Janet Rigby and Sean Hughes.  Rigby, a Research Associate at the Observatory, told the University that “the name Death Café is startling at first but it certainly promotes discussion.”

“This is a project designed to get people talking about death with the intention of helping them make the most of their lives,” Rigby, who has been a palliative care nurse for 20 years, said. “[We also aim] to ensure that others around them are aware of their wishes and preferences.”

Fellow organiser Hughes is a Research Associate who has a background in hospice social work and bereavement care. He told the University: “This is a very sensitive area but we hope people will be curious about it and that it will stimulate questions and make people think.”

“When death is not discussed it can cause all sorts of problems when people don’t actually know what their relatives want,” Hughes said. “This is an open forum. It is definitely not about counselling or bereavement support, nor is it linked to any religious perspective or research project.”

Death Cafes have been run in Hackney, Chester and at the Royal Festival Hall in the UK. They were founded by Jon Underwood, who is supporting the Lancaster University event, and are based on the Swiss-style “Cafe Mortels.” Lancaster University’s Death Café project was intended to launch during summer term of the 2012-2013 academic year, but was postponed.

The Lancaster University International Observatory on End of Life Care was established in 2003, and is currently led by Professor Sheila Payne, the President of the European Association for Palliative Care, and Dr Catherine Walshe.

The Death Café will be held on Tuesday, Week 4, from 11.30am to 1.30pm in the foyer of the Furness Building.  Attendance is free of charge, but donations towards running costs are apparently welcome.

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