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Practice Guidelines for Health Professionals Dealing with Death in the Northern Territory Aboriginal Australian Population

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This article summarizes the content of recently developed guidelines for health professionals dealing with death in the Northern Territory Aboriginal Australian population. An account is given of the stimulus for the guidelines, the applied research context (the Adult Aboriginal Mortality Project) in which the guidelines were developed, and their initial reception by service providers. The guidelines deal with the time of death and afterwards, when the practical, communicative and cross-cultural challenges that health professionals face are intimately connected. It is argued that, from a mental health perspective, what happens after death is as important as what happens before. The relationship of the guidelines to the other areas of research carried out in the five-year period over which the Mortality Project was conducted is described. A case scenario is also presented to illustrate the real-life difficulties addressed by these guidelines. The potential for such local guideline development to improve communicative practice around death in other settings and situations (both national and international) is highlighted.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, Australia

Publication date: July 1, 1998

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