Hospices meet with Muslim leaders to raise awareness of help available

Two east London hospices led a frank and open discussion on death and dying at a Muslim centre in a bid to make more people aware of the help available to them.

Members of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths met up at the London Muslim Centre on Thursday (May 19) to find out more about St Joseph’s in Hackney and Richard House in Newham which serve the East End.

People from the Muslim faith in particular were less likely to use the hospices, community leaders said.

Issues ranging from getting GPs to tell more people about end of life care to the problems surrounding post mortems in the Muslim community were discussed.

Chief Imam Abdul Qayum talked about a previous visit he had made to St Joseph’s, in Mare Street.

He said: “The hospice is a beautiful place and does good work. I see families who have to look after an ill child or elderly member and they can’t cope.

“They think there are religious issues at the hospice. Especially in the Islamic faith, there are some rituals they don’t think are possible to practise there but they absolutely are.”

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Dr Heather Richardson, clinical director of St Joseph’s, said the use of the hospice by other faiths had improved in recent years but said there was still a way to go.

She said: “We do have to work hard because there are a lot of anxieties. There is a fear they are not allowed to observe their own religious instructions or that we won’t have the right food.”

Concerns were also raised about the impact of post mortems, as in Islam a person should be buried within 24 hours and the body should be kept in tact if possible.

It was suggested that MRI scans were being used in some parts of London as a quicker and less invasive way of establishing cause of death if a doctor was not present.

The conference was part of Dying Matters Awareness Week but the LMC and the hospices said they planned to do more work together in the future.

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