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York University and York Hospital Hold Events for Dying Awareness Week

Minster FM News Generic

1:26pm 7th May 2014

The University of York and York Hospital will hold a series of events next week to mark Dying Awareness Week.

At the university, ‘Before I Die – a Festival for the Living About Dying’, will combine poetry, music and theatre with death cafés, practical workshops, thought-provoking public lectures and expert panels, all designed to encourage open discussion about death, dying and bereavement.  Most events are free.

Professor Celia Kitzinger, from the Department of Sociology at York, will curate the festival which runs from 11 to 17 May. It is the first festival of its type and scale in York and is part of a series of events across the UK to mark Dying Awareness Week, organised by the National Council for Palliative Care ‘Dying Matters’ Coalition.

Professor Kitzinger said: “Death is often a taboo subject which many people are reluctant to discuss, but through my research and as a result of experiences within my own family, I have become convinced that we urgently need to talk about end-of- life issues as individuals and as a society.

“The festival combines thought-provoking perspectives on death, but we also aim to provide opportunities for people to think about their wishes for their own end-of-life and advise on how to make sure these choices are documented and made clear to relatives and medical staff.”

Professor Kitzinger, co-director of the York-Cardiff Chronic Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre, has carried out a study exploring the experiences of families with loved ones in a long-term coma. Her sister Polly is severely brain injured following a car accident.

Festival highlights include:

  • Death cafés (12,13,14 May, Friargate Quaker Meeting House, York). A chance to discuss attitudes and questions about death in a welcoming environment over tea and cakes. The cafés will be led by a range of experts including University of York researchers, clinicians, a palliative care specialist and the founder of an alternative funeral business
  • Should we legalise assisted dying? (12 May, Research Centre for the Social Sciences, University of York) Leading experts, including those with family and professional experience of end-of life-care, discuss their views with members of the public
  • Planning an alternative funeral (13 May, Friargate Quaker Meeting House, York) Learn about the choices available including non-traditional coffins (from woollen to wicker), shrouds, humanist celebrants and green burial sites
  • A Good Death? (13 May, Research Centre for the Social Sciences, University of York)  Experts led by the chaplaincy team at the University will explore what a ‘good death’ means in a morally and religiously pluralistic society
  • Food and Death (14 May, Research Centre for the Social Sciences, University of York) Food historians discuss the celebratory foods used to commemorate the dead, including Yorkshire funeral biscuits and buns (with free samples)
  • Music and Poetry to Die For (15 May, National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York) Songs and poetry reflecting the emotions around dying
  • Advance Decisions and End-of-Life Planning (16 May, Berrick Saul Lecture Room, University of York) Do you know what medical treatments you would refuse if you were unable to make your own choices (e.g. because you were unconscious?) An expert panel explains the legal, ethical and practical issues.

The Festival also includes a guided tour of memorials in York Minster, a talk by a coroner about his work, an event on organ donation and a session offering specialist advice on Wills and Lasting Power of Attorney.

Meanwhile, staff from York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust out and about across the region providing information and advice.

The event is designed to raise awareness of death and dying and to encourage everybody to consider the wishes of themselves and their loved ones if death were to occur.

Layla Al-Ani, End of Life Care Lead Nurse for the Trust explained:  “As a healthcare organisation we believe that people need to have an understanding of issues relating to death and dying. This enables them and their loved ones to make informed choices that are reflective of their morals, beliefs and wishes. Throughout the week we will be holding events and displays locally to offer support and advice on end of life issues. We have worked very closely with local charities, advocacy and support groups, funeral directors, solicitors, local libraries and health and social care professionals to produce some really useful information. If people need advice or have any questions we will be on hand so we hope people will drop by our events to find out more.”

As part of Dying Matters Week the Trust’s specialist palliative care team have worked with St Leonard’s Hospice to create a DVD to explain what palliative care services are available locally to support patients and their families. On the DVD members of the team explain how care services work and it follows a carer’s experience of her husband dying.

People can see the DVD at special sessions at York Hospital which will include a short presentation from the palliative care team giving advice on advance care planning, where staff will be present to answer any questions. These will be held in the Neurosciences Seminar Room on Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 1pm – 3pm.

As well as an information stand in the foyer of York Hospital each day there will be a range of events across the city. These include:

    • Haxby Health Centre information display on Monday afternoon 
    • Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors drop-in session at their offices on Monday and Tuesday from 9am-12pm
    • Bereavement services open department at York Hospital on Wednesday 9.30am - 4pm
    • St Monica’s Hospital information stand on Tuesday afternoon
    • Acomb library DVD, information and advice throughout Wednesday

For further information regarding the events please contact the End of Life Care Educators at York Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust on 01904 721106, York Carers Forum on 01904 422437 or Crombie and Wilkinson Solicitors on 01904 624185.

Further details are available on the festival website www.beforeidiefestival.co.uk/


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