Background Taboo shrouds death, preventing people from having important conversations about end of life wishes and advance care planning. The recent Royal College of Physicians’ report, ‘Talking about dying’ highlights that this taboo, and the fear that accompanies it, extends even to doctors. Public health approaches to end of life care aim to tackle the taboo and enable communities to support, and care for each other through death and bereavement. This can only be accomplished if people are able and willing to have these important conversations. Doctors find death discussions difficult, can the public be educated to have them?
The Omega Course (Ω) aims to empower its participants to discuss death and dying through health education and role-play. This study assessed its effectiveness.
Methods An anonymised, mixed methods questionnaire was distributed to 62 Ω participants. The 24 responses (38.7%) were analysed using thematic analysis and inferential statistics.
Results Thematic analysis identified two main barriers to discussing death and dying: fear of upsetting others; and difficulty broaching the subject. Ω helped to alleviate participants’ fears: ‘helped me […] stand alongside friends and relatives going through traumatic times’; and improved their confidence in initiating discussion ‘It gave me the words to say to people when I needed to say something’.
Before and after scores assessing three areas (how comfortable participants felt discussing death and dying; how often they discussed death and dying; how afraid they felt about death), were analysed using paired t-tests. There was significant improvement across all areas (p<0.01).
Conclusion Ω is successful in enabling participants to discuss death and dying, an important step towards taboo reduction with positive implications for end of life planning.
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