Journal Article

Decriminalising an Expected Death in the Home: A Social Work Response

Margaret E. Hughes

in The British Journal of Social Work

Volume 43, issue 2, pages 282-297
Published in print March 2013 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online February 2013 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Decriminalising an Expected Death in the Home: A Social Work Response

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An issue yet to be examined in the social work research literature concerns an expected death at home and the experiences of informal carers being subjected to a police investigation following a request for help. While research in this area is scant, sufficient mention of unnecessary police involvement is made in the palliative care literature to show that incidents like these have occurred throughout Australia, America, Canada and the UK. This article examines the Australian context, analysing the practice of reporting deaths to the police in instances where a doctor is not immediately available to attend the home to certify the death of a person diagnosed with a terminal condition. Personal accounts from three research participants derived from a subset of data analysed for a larger qualitative study are used as empirical evidence to illuminate the impact of unnecessary police involvement. Using critical social work theory to examine unnecessary end-of-life intervention, this paper argues for greater social work activity within the context of home-based palliative care, so that the rights of informal carers to relevant information is improved, and expected deaths at home are no longer considered crime scenes warranting police investigation.

Keywords: Palliative care; expected death; home; police

Journal Article.  6801 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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