Death, Religion and Law: A Guide For Clinicians, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Death, Religion and Law

A Guide For Clinicians, 1st Edition

By Peter Hutton, Ravi Mahajan, Allan Kellehear


324 pages | 18 B/W Illus.

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This practical guide summarizes the principles of working with dying patients and their families as influenced by the commoner world religions and secular philosophies. It also outlines the main legal requirements to be followed by those who care for the dying following the death of the patient.

The first part of the book provides a reflective introduction to the general influences of world religions on matters to do with dying, death and grief. It considers the sometimes conflicting relationships between ethics, religion, culture and personal philosophies, and how these differences impact on individual cases of dying, death and loss. The second part describes the general customs and beliefs of the major religions that are encountered in hospitals, hospices, care homes and home care settings. It also includes discussion of non-religious spirituality, humanism, agnosticism and atheism. The final part outlines key socio-legal aspects of death across the UK.

Death, Religion and Law provides key knowledge, discussion and reflection for dealing with the diversity of the everyday care of dying and death in different religious, secular and cultural contexts. It is an important reference for practitioners working with dying patients, their families and the bereaved.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Belief systems in society and human history: Interpretations of the mysteries of life and death

1. Introduction: death and religion in society

2. Faith, why people believe and the need for tolerance

3. The characteristics of a religion or belief system

4. The range of belief paradigms

5. What happens when we die?

6. The soul: what is it; where is it; and does it exist?

7. What does death mean to patients and their relatives?

8. Near death experiences, deathbed visions, and visions of the bereaved

9. The entanglement of religion, ethics and societal development

10. The uses and abuses of religion

Part 2: Managing death in different faiths and doctrines

11. An introduction to religions and belief systems

12. Landscape of religions in the world and in the UK

13. Baha’i

14. Buddhism

15. Chinese Religions

16. Christianity

17. Hinduism

18. Islam

19. Jainism

20. Judaism

21. Rastafari

22. Secular philosophies and other belief systems

23. Shinto

24. Sikhism

25. Zoroastrianism



Part 3: Legal aspects of death in the UK

26. Life and death as biological and legal constructs

27. Medico-legal issues at the end of life

28. People’s roles in the management of death

29. Medical certification of the cause of death (MCCD)

30. The registration of death

31. Coroners and autopsies

32. The body after death

33. Disposal of the body

34. Life support, brain death and transplantation

35. Performing last offices

36. Less common circumstances

37. The management of death in Northern Ireland and Scotland

38. Future changes in England and Wales


About the Authors

Peter Hutton was Professor of Anaesthesia at Birmingham University, an Honorary Consultant at University Hospital Birmingham and a Medical Examiner. He is now a non-Executive Director of the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals.

Ravi Mahajan is Professor of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at Nottingham University, UK.

Allan Kellehear is 50th Anniversary Professor (End of Life Care), Faculty of Health Studies, University of Bradford, UK.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / Geriatrics
MEDICAL / Health Care Delivery
MEDICAL / Nursing / General
MEDICAL / Physician & Patient