When most people think about the term “midwife”, they probably think about someone who has been specially trained to assist an individual throughout pregnancy and in giving birth. While this certainly is the classic definition of a “midwife”, it appears that the term may no longer exclusively apply to those who assist at the earliest stages of life, but also perhaps to those who assist in life’s final stages as well. As recently reported by the Toronto Star, a group in British Columbia has self-stylized themselves as “death midwives”. Their purpose? To assist individuals in their final stages of life.552eb668775a09323fc0e2d0.w314

While the group has received some resistance for utilizing the term “midwife” in relation to their work, the actual sentiment behind their work appears to be unchallenged. With the recent enactment of assisted dying legislation in Canada, the previous stigma surrounding discussions regarding end of life care may be lifting, and people may begin having more open and honest conversations regarding how they would like to die.

The rise in the use of the term “death midwife” or “death doula” has been reported for some time, with the CBC having done a feature on the practice last year. As discussed in such a feature, the use of a “death midwife” can allow for a healthy dialogue for an individual in confronting their own mortality, helping them to avoid their “nightmare scenario” of their own death. Death midwives can help create “death plans”, and assist with social and psychological support throughout what otherwise could be a very difficult process. Once the individual is deceased, they can also assist the family with vigils and funerals, and assist to guide them throughout the immediate aftermath of the individual’s death.

Have a great weekend.

Stuart Clark