Comparisons of Life Images and End-of-Life Attitudes Between the Elderly in Taiwan and New Zealand

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Rapid advances in medical technology may in the near future make “natural” aging and old age diseases the main causes of human death in affluent societies (apart from accidents). When dealing with end of life issues, medical sociology will need to focus more on life and death in seniors. Understanding the attitudes of older persons toward life and death is important for both performing end-of-life medical care and in developing end-of-life policies. Descriptive bioethical analysis of attitudes in different cultures can aid a fuller understanding of the views inside each culture and the trajectories of conflict situations within each culture. In-depth interviews were conducted with 112 senior citizens in Taiwan and with 25 senior citizens in New Zealand. All interviews were transcribed verbatim; qualitative data analysis was used to examine people's views on life and death. Their images of life and end of life attitudes were compared. Analysis of the key concepts they mentioned revealed distinctive views in life attitudes between these two groups. However, in spite of differences in culture and traditions, most life and end-of-life attitudes among elderly people in the two groups were rather similar. According to these similarities, an interpretation of these values was made within a Confucian and Taoist framework that might be applicable to non-Eastern cultures as well.

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