Ethnicity Online

Cultural Awareness in Healthcare

Sikhs: Dying

respect

A patient and their family will be able to cope better with an imminent death if they feel that the healthcare team understand their needs. Families expect to be involved with the care of their relatives, and involved in discussions about treatment; do not take this as a slur on your skills, but a normal part of Sikh life. Patients and family also expect to be treated with complete honesty and to have treatments and conditions explained to them. Involving the family can help a patient to feel far more relaxed about their stay in hospital, whatever the circumstances.

before death

If a Sikh knows they are about to die, then they will want to see as many of their friends and family as possible. They will also want to have the local granthi visit them to read from the Guru Granth Sahib and pray with them. The family will probably bring gangajal (holy Ganges water) and prashad with them to comfort their loved one.

life support

Respecting the sanctity of life is a part of the Sikh religion, and so when treating a Sikh, every effort must be made to save their life. However, this requirement must be carefully balanced with the idea that the dying Sikh will go to rejoin God at their death, before being reincarnated. Thus, maintaining a patient on life support in a vegetative state, for example, is not acceptable. Healthcare staff must make efforts to save the life of a Sikh, but know when to let go.

resuscitation

Resuscitation must be carried out if necessary, but not to extremes. If a heartbeat or breathing cannot be restored, then Sikhs believe that the soul has departed and so the flesh is empty

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