Elderly & death

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What is death

Textbook definition: the end of life, which can be determined in several ways but normally when the brain stops functioning. 

When your heart stops: life is considered to start when the heart starts beating, so could be considered to have stopped when the heart stops beating. 

When you stop breathing: Breathing is taking oxygen to oxygenate your cells and organs, they can't function without oxygen. 

When your organs fail: organs work together in organ systems to keep a person alive, when they fail it could be said a person is dead. 

When the brain stops functioning: brain death is the irreversible end of all brain activity. Patients are classedas brain dead but can be kept 'alive' on a life-support machine. Life-support machines are turned off if there is no objection from the persons family. 

Religious death: When the soal leaves the body and starts its next life or the afterlife. 

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What happens at a Christian funeral

  • The gathering: "I am the resurrection and the life" "he believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" This shows Christians believe in resurrection, Jesus was resurrected and if they believe in God they will be resurrected. 
  • Readings from the bible
  • Personal readings from the preist or a family member. 
  • Prayers thanking God for the life of the person and asking God to allow them into heaven. 
  • Reflection silent time for reflection. 
  • Commendation and farewell the priest says: "Let us command the person to the mercy of God, our maker and redeemer." the priest then reads a prayer. Asking God to let the person into heaven.
  • The committal at a burial the coffin is lowered into the ground, at a cremation the curtains are closed around the coffin. 
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Christian beliefs about death

  • Christians believe in eternal life, the belief that death is not the end.
  • When a person dies they will be resurrected by God. Resurrection is being brought back to life in the same way Jesus was. 
  • After someone is resurrected they will be judged by God. They are judged on their actions and beliefs during life. 
  • They will go to heaven/hell. Some christians don't believe in hell, only heaven. 
  • The bible gives two views about when resurrection might happen 
  • In one view resurrection happens as soon as a person dies and they are judged then. 
  • Or it happens at the end of time when everyone is resurrected and judged together. 
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Euthanasia definitions

Euthanasia: inducing a painless death, by agreement and with compassion to ease suffering. Comes from greek meaning 'good death'.

Voluntary euthanasia: The person asks the doctor to end their life

Non-voluntary: The person is too ill to ask, but it is believed to be in their best interests.

Involuntary: The person does not want to die

Passive: Where the dose of pain relieving drug is increased to control pain but it will also shorten life. Where treatment is withheld because it is delaying death. 

Active: Giving a drug that will end life.

Assisted suicide: The person is given drugs to end their life but they must do it themselves. 

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Views on euthanasia


  • It's loving/compassionate because it ends suffering. 
  • A terminally ill person won't get any better so it lets them die with dignity. 
  • Using up resources when there is no hope, a perosn who could live can use the resources. 


  • Slippery slope, could lead to child euthanasia being made legal. 
  • A person might feel forced in to it, if their family can't afford health care.
  • They could change their mind but might not be able to communicate. 
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Denominations: euthanasia

Baptist church: against euthanasia: all human life is sacred. But if a person is brain dead and has no chance of recovery it is acceptable for treatment to be stopped. 

Roman Catholic church: against euthanasia: Treat it like murder. It is acceptable to take pain relief drugs which might shorten life. Ordinary treatment like feeding must continue. But if an operation/ treatment is unlikely to succeed, it isn't necessary. 

Church of England: sanctity of life is very important. Arch bishop Justin Welby said allowing assisted dying would: 

  • Not give life its full value 
  • Put pressure on vulnerable people
  • Cause a slippery slope
  • Encourage suicide.
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Religious arguments on euthanasia


  • God given free will: everyone has the right to end their life but may be judged in the after life. 
  • God given knowledge: To develop the techniques and lethal drugs
  • Love your neighboue: We should show love and compassion to all


  • "Do not murder" exodus 20:13
  • Playing God: only God should take life, God has a plan for all 
  • "Your body is a temple" God lives through our body it must not be destroyed. 
  • Sanctity of life: God decides when a person dies
  • "The lord gave and the Lord has taken away" Job, only God can take a life away.
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Care for the dying

Hospices are homes for the dying. 

Dame cicely saunders set up St Christophers hospice in 1967, she did this to provide care that considers physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological well-being. 

Palliative care: making sure a person ends their life in the most comfortable way and pain free, so a person can enjoy the end of their life. 

Aims of hospices are: 

  • Relieve physical symptoms of illness (palliative care) 
  • Care for emotional and spiritual well being of the patient, sort out unfinished business. 
  • Support families of patients
  • Educate others about caring for the dying. 
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Hospices VS euthanasia

  • hospices are legal, euthanasia isn't 
  • Spend more time with family before death, time to get affairs in order and reflect
  • A hospice provides palliative care.
  • Don't have to travel abroad to die legally 
  • It is free to die at a hospice but euthanasia can be expensive and their are travel costs. 
  •  A hospice is a more positive way to die and a patient can take comfort knowing their family will be supported after their death. 
  • Hospices allow people to die naturally. 
  • Christianity wants old people to feel valued and hospices do this. 
  • Hospices allow people to not break religious rules "do not murder" and the sanctity of life. 
  • "Your body is a temple" hospices help a person look after their body but euthanasia destroys a persons body. 
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Problems facing the elderly

  • Poverty. Many have to rely on a small state pension or state benefits
  • Work. People think elderly people's experience isn't valuable. People are less likely to employ an elderly person
  • Illness. More health problems caused by their age. May have to care for an ill loved one/partner. 
  • Loneliness. Friends/family also get old, so might have died. Less mobile, so can't visit people. Young people are more mobile so can move away
  • Worthless. May feel worthless because they can't contribute through paid work. 
  • Attitude. Attitudes of others and the media can make the elderly feel like a burden on their families or on society.
  • Friends/family dying. lonely. Very sad going to lots of funerals. 

Ageism: Prejudice and discrimination against the elderly. 

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Accommodation for the elderly

  • Care home. 

Advantages: 24/7 care, part of a community, there are activities, meals and other needs are provided for. 

Disadvantages: May feel abandoned, not much privacy, expensive, new environment

  • Sheltered accommodation.

Advantages: Your own home, care is available. Social spaces, sense of community, but also privacy and independence. Freedom

Disadvantages: Expensive, no full time care 

  • Visits from carer at home.

Advantages: comfort of own home, hot meals and house work provided. 

Disadvantages: Don't leave house as often, family might not visit as often, expensive, cost of house being adapted (stair lift)

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Christian teachings

  • "Honour your father and mother" Exodus 20. From the 10 commandments
  • "Listen to your father who gave you life and do not hate your mother when she is old." Proverbs
  • "You shall rise up before the grey haired and honour the aged." Leviticus, means show respect. 
  • "Love your neighbour as yourself" Jesus 
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