Christian perspectives on death and dying

17 October 2017

Death and dying

End-of-life decision-making is becoming more complex with advances in medical technologies – and many of us will die without the ability to make those decisions for ourselves at the time.

It is therefore increasingly recognized that we need to discuss approaches to death as individuals, families, and society – and that those discussions are important now. How can we encourage such reflection and explore 'Christian perspectives' on these issues? And how can churches help?

A new resource to support such conversations is now available at www.christiandying.org.uk. Based on a year-long ecumenical initiative involving six conferences across England and Wales, the resource brings together recorded presentations from experts with practical, legal, medical, and theological expertise to support clergy and congregations to learn about key issues and initiate their own discussions. Issues explored include:

  • How do people’s values, beliefs and religious faith inform their wishes about care at the end of life?
  • What is an ‘Advance Decision’ and what are the different Christian perspectives on refusing life-prolonging treatment?
  • What are the social, ethical and theological debates around active ‘Assisted Dying'?

The ecumenical initiative has been led by Cardiff University and funded by a small York-based charity, The Paristamen CIO.

Professor Jenny Kitzinger, from Cardiff University, is an expert in the ethical and legal difficulties faced by families involved in end-of-life decision-making. She said: “This new ‘Christian Perspectives on Death and Dying’ work is part of an international movement to address the challenges raised by 21st century medicine and reflect on the ethical and social issues we all face.

Professor Jenny Kitzinger

"This resource offers an opportunity to reflect on value and beliefs, and how they shape the choices we make. We hope the resource will provide crucial information about end of life choices and open up the conversation about death."

Professor Jenny Kitzinger, Director of Research: Impact and Engagement and Co-Director of the Cardiff-York Coma and Disorders of Conciousness Research Centre

The project has been co-ordinated by Dr Julie Latchem, a neurological physiotherapist and social scientist at Cardiff University. She comments: "We were heartened by the level of interest from the Christian community. Many people told us they wished death was talked about more."

Gareth Morgan, Chair of Trustees at The Paristamen CIO, said: “Death and dying are central themes for Christians, raising profound ethical issues. But there can be a gulf between official church positions and those of ordinary Christians, which is why we offered funding for a project to promote wider engagement with these questions.

"We are delighted with what the team at Cardiff University have achieved in this project and we hope the resources now available at www.christiandying.org.uk will be widely used by the churches.”

For more information visit the School webpages.