This paper addresses the stories of volunteers in hospice and palliative care (HPC) from eight European countries. The aims of the paper are to explore the experiences of volunteers in HPC from their insider perspective, to understand why volunteers choose to work in this field and to understand what it means to them to be involved in palliative care in this way. Stories were collected by the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) Task Force for Volunteering contacts in each of the eight countries. The majority of stories (n = 32) came from volunteers involved in different settings including adult patient's homes, hospices, hospitals and care homes. Twenty volunteers were female, six were male, and ten did not give their gender. Stories were translated into English, and a qualitative framework analysis was performed. Volunteers were asked two questions: 'What do you do as a volunteer?' 'What does volunteering mean to you?' Three themes were identified from the data: (i) What volunteers do (ii) How volunteers approach their work and (iii) What working in HPC means to volunteers. The analysis revealed that common approaches to addressing and describing HPC volunteering in terms of tasks and roles could be expanded. To volunteers, it is not about tasks, but about a part of their life, the impact upon which can be significant. The results of this paper, therefore, add to the understanding of volunteers, in the sense of giving attention, being with, and of compassion as a community resource to patients and families in difficult situations. Theories about presence and presencing might have value in further underpinning this contribution to palliative care. Understanding the extent and depth of the volunteers' experience will help to prevent the undervaluing of their contribution and increase the impact of their involvement.
The aims of this present study were to explore the use and meaning of metaphors and images about aging in older people with a death wish and to elucidate what these metaphors and images tell us about their self-understanding and imagined feared future. Twenty-five in-depth interviews with Dutch older people with a death wish (median 82 years) were analyzed by making use of a phenomenological–hermeneutical metaphor analysis approach. We found 10 central metaphorical concepts: (a) struggle, (b) victimhood, (c) void, (d) stagnation, (e) captivity, (f) breakdown, (g) redundancy, (h) subhumanization, (i) burden, and (j) childhood. It appears that the group under research does have profound negative impressions of old age and about themselves being or becoming old. The discourse used reveals a strong sense of distance, disengagement, and nonbelonging associated with their wish to die. This study empirically supports the theory of stereotype embodiment.
In the Netherlands, physician-assisted dying has been legalized since 2002. Currently, an increasing number of Dutch citizens are in favour of a more relaxed interpretation of the law. Based on an ethos of self-determination and autonomy, there is a strong political lobby for the legal right to assisted dying when life is considered to be completed and no longer worth living. Building on previous empirical research, this article provides a critical ethical reflection upon this social issue. In the first part, we discuss the following question: what is the lived experience of older people who consider their lives to be completed and no longer worth living? We describe the reported loss of a sense of autonomy, dignity and independence in the lives of these older people. In the second part, from an ethics of care stance, we analyse the emerging social and political challenges behind the wish to die. Empirically grounded, the authors argue that the debate on 'completed life in old age' should primarily focus not on the question of whether or not to legitimize a self-directed death but on how to build an inclusive society where people may feel less unneeded, useless and marginalized.