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End of Life Doulas: Past, Present and Future

End of Life Doulas - also known as Death Doulas and Death Midwives - are emerging as an important new phenomena in end of life care. As a research group, we are developing various research projects about the origins, current practices, and future development of this care role.

Care for those who are dying is a critical public health priority, with a marked escalation in end-of-life care needs predicted by 2030. Health care systems already report significant challenges in addressing many of these care needs, and it is anticipated that this capacity will decrease over time. Transformative solutions to end-of-life care require radically different approaches that do not solely rely on existing health care, family, or community infrastructures. Death Doulas are emerging as one such innovative practice.

Death Doulas (also commonly known as End-of-Life Doulas and Death Midwives) provide a range of practical, emotional, and social support for people nearing the end of life, including their families. This role is still developing, in flux, and little understood.

In 2019, Dr. Marian Krawczyk, along with Mrs. Merilynne Rush (an American community collaborator), conducted interviews in four countries with early pioneers and key stakeholders in the Death Doula movement. The results will provide insights into the origins of Death Doulas in each country, identify current trends in their development, and help practitioners, policy makers, and health care providers better understand the benefits and challenges of integrating Death Doulas within formal health service provision and lay community care models.

Active Research

We are actively developing further research in this area. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Comparing and contrasting local and international contexts of practice
  • Examining the socio-economic and historical contexts within which Death Doulas have emerged
  • Exploring the relationships between gender, caregiving, and the “entrepreneurialism” of emotion work in the wellness and spiritual industries.

Please be in touch if you are interested in conducting research, or collaborating, on this topic.