Palliative care in context: an ethnographic account of the journey from diagnosis to the end of life.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis provides an ethnographic account of the journey from diagnosis with a life-limiting illness to the end of life. It tracks the lives and eventual deaths of eight people and 83 family members for a period of three and a half years in total. Culture is located as a central element or lens by which to view this journey. The role, function and issues for social work as a profession are discussed in various chapters. The theoretical underpinnings of the thesis are informed by the ecological perspective combined with psychosocial theories of loss and grief. Drawing on a broad social systems theory, in conjunction with an ethnographic methodology and grounded theory analysis, contributes to the development of research which firmly takes culture into account. Four primary topic areas are presented: a narrative exploration of diagnosis, the changing landscape that participants encounter, the embodiment of new places and spaces, and finally, the journey’s end. The themes from the four topic areas contribute to the development of the two core categories “time and place” and “preparedness for death”. A schematic representation of the paths participants took is provided in the discussion of the core categories. Lastly, the New Zealand Palliative Care Strategy (Ministry of Health, 2001) is drawn on to aid the discussion of issues arising from the research and the implications for practice in this field.