Oral Presentation Palliative Care Nurses Australia Conference 2020

Will Voluntary Assisted Dying see new social rituals evolving? (70325)

Deb Rawlings 1 , Megan Winsall 1 , Lauren Miller-Lewis 2 , Jennifer J Tieman 1
  1. Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia
  2. School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, CQ University, Adelaide Campus, SA, Australia


The Dying2Learn Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) was held in 2016, 2017. With participants from around the globe, an interest was shown in Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) and comments were found on its place at end of life. Subsequent to this emerging interest, an activity was developed exclusive to MOOC 2018, where we invited participants to consider what an expected death might mean in terms of new social rituals.



To explore community views on “what will change for families and friends if people choose to die rather than dying naturally”



The content of participants’ responses (n = 508) was analysed qualitatively. Ethical approval was obtained (Flinders University Project No. 7247)



The most popular themes included ‘living wakes’, ‘parties and celebrations’, ‘time with loved ones’, ‘leaving a legacy’, and ’personal fulfilment’.



This activity encouraged participants to consider how VAD will change society if people choose to die. Rituals play an important part in our society in relation to the end of life and can provide some degree of purpose and meaning. Rituals post-death are more common, but it is feasible that they will emerge pre-death in relation to VAD. Nurses will potentially be impacted if rituals occur at or around the time of death.



Voluntary Assisted Dying became legal in Victoria and Western Australia in 2019. With new legislation comes the requirement to forge not only new clinical practices but also new social /societal ones. The concept of ‘known date of death’ is unchartered territory for nurses in relation to anticipated social rituals