Talking about life and death

written by Dr Gudule Boland

Intercultural palliative care

Talking about life and death isn’t easy for anyone. Migrant families find it even more difficult. To stimulate conversations about the last phase of life, Pharos – centre of expertise on health disparities – has made films to stimulate families to talk about it.
Important topics in palliative care are addressed in the short films. The films focus on Antilleans (Papiamento), Chinese (Cantonese / Mandarin), Turks (Turkish) and Moroccans (Moroccan-Arabic). All films have subtitles in Dutch. The films follow an imaginary family during different phases of palliative care. They are confronted with a dilemma, discuss this and go in search of a solution that matches their own situation. The dilemmas are whether or not to tell the diagnosis, dealing with physical deterioration, use of professional care and support, administering (alternative) medication, and more. The family members in the films have different views and use different arguments. At the end of the films, a GP explains about morphine use, palliative sedation and euthanasia.
The films stimulate migrants to talk about the final phase of life. That is not self-evident in many cultures. The films pay attention to physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects. Having a conversation about the final phase of life can bring relief to the patient and relatives and improves the quality of life. The films are used in information meetings but can also be handed to patients by (family) doctors and nurses. A toolkit is available for organizing information meetings. In November 2018 the project ‘Talking about life and death’ received a ‘ZonMw Pearl’, an award for outstanding projects funded by ZonMw.

For more information, in Dutch, please visit and (this is also the direct link to the films), or mail to the project lead Gudule Boland: