The Good Funeral Guide Blog

‘Here’s Looking At You’ – The Good Grief Project

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

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“It’s a photo taken by someone who would die in 3 months, of her loved ones looking at her, with that knowledge. It’s quite a concept isn’t it? I see the tense smiles as well as the relaxed merry faces. I printed the three photos and joined them together and I put it in her coffin so that she had us all there with her on her journey.” Jo Bousfield

Good friends of the GFG, Jane and Jimmy Edmonds run the Good Grief Project. Set up after they experienced the sudden death of their son Josh, the purpose of the Good Grief Project is not only to share their experience of grief, but also to help others to find ‘an active and creative response to the expression of their grief.’

Yesterday, Jimmy posted these photographs on their website. They were taken by Harry Banks.

Harry’s mother, Jo Bousfield, is a trustee of the Good Grief Project, and Harry was terminally ill when she captured this moment, of the people she loved, looking at her, with the knowledge that she was dying.

Three months after taking the photographs, Harry died, aged 31. 

Read the post here.

International Work Group on Death, Dying & Bereavement Open Conference

Friday, 11 November 2016

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Today, somewhere in Scotland, leaders in the field of death, dying and bereavement will end a five-day meeting, and bid each other farewell until 2018, when the 30th gathering of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement will convene.

Membership of the IWG is an honour bestowed by invitation only; founded in 1974 by, among others, Cicely Saunders and Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, the IWG is a non-profit organisation whose members must demonstrate leadership within thanatology within their country, and typically on an international level as well. While the majority of members are either in academia or the medical care professions, the organisation includes others who share a common bond of passionate intellectual and personal interest in the field of thanatology.

For the last week, around 140 people from around the world have been engaged in in-depth discussions on various death related topics – it is a kind of think tank on thanatology, with no agenda other than to explore the agreed upon topics. And last Saturday, the group hosted an open meeting in Glasgow where the public were able to glimpse the calibre and quality of some of the thought leaders and practitioners involved. The GFG was privileged to be invited to co-host a workshop at this conference on social aspects of death, dying and bereavement, and to attend the plenary presentations from some of the finest thinkers on the subject of our time. We also got to have dinner with the presenters the evening beforehand, which was quite an experience!

The one-day conference was hosted by Dame Barbara Monroe DBE, former Chief Executive of St. Christopher’s Hospice, a trustee of Marie Curie and Special Commissioner of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Barbara’s opening address was challenging and bracing; “…some of our efforts to engage the public in talking about death, dying and bereavement have looked like us talking to ourselves” she said, “we need to find a wider variety of words.”

Professor Robert Neimeyer Ph.D from the University of Memphis, author of 30 books and almost 500 articles and book chapters and editor of the journal Death Studies was the first speaker, presenting psychological insights on ‘The Importance of Meaning’ alongside Dr. Neil Thompson, a highly experienced social work professional who offered sociological insights to the same subject.

Bob’s presentation was illustrated with a brief case study of an impoverished African-American mother contending with the murder of her young adult son. He explored the concept of adaptive grieving and the move towards integrated grief (the point where the finality of death is viscerally acknowledged). Neil reflected on a holistic approach to meaning, the personal, cultural and structural influences and the fluidity of an individual’s experience. He explored the sociological context within which grief is experienced, the cultural norms and expectations, the structural power relations of class, race, gender, age, disability and language group frameworks which inform the unique experience of each individual.

The second presentation was given by Darcy Harris Ph.D, an Associate Professor and Thanatology Co-ordinator at King’s University, London, Ontario with a background in oncology, palliative care nursing and bereavement counselling. Darcy’s presentation examined grief from the perspective of social justice (the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights).

Most clinicians in end of life care and bereavement care are trained with an emphasis on the experience of the individual, often in isolation of the various contexts in which their lives are socially situated. Darcy explored the social and political underpinnings that inform individual perceptions, experiences and expectations, and discussed the social rules for grief, which cover who can be grieved, whether the relationship is valid, how long grief can last, how it is expressed / manifest and whether the type of death is acceptable.

Frustratingly, all four workshops were held simultaneously, leading to ‘workshop envy’ from both participants and workshop hosts – the three other sessions being held while we co-hosted a workshop on ‘Whose funeral is it?’ with Scottish bereavement consultant John Birrell were entitled ‘Ordinary People, Extraordinary Things, a community response to bereavement’, ‘Maximising child and family support after a bereavement – the role of networking’ and ‘Building community resilience and bringing remembrance into the open – Scotland’s answer to Dia de los Muertos’.

The afternoon continued with two further plenary sessions, the first from Professor David Clark, a sociologist at the University of Glasgow who leads the University of Glasgow End of Life Studies Group and who has a particular knowledge of the life and work of Dame Cicely Saunders, having edited her letters and selected publications. He is working on a biography to be published in 2018 on the centenary of her birth.

David’s presentation explored end of life issues around the world in the light of the anticipated significant increase in the global annual death toll from the current 56,000,000 people who currently die each year. He noted that the number of deaths in the entire 20th century is less than the number of people currently alive, and how the underlying assumption in palliative care is that the developing world should at some point catch up with the developed world – ‘the waiting room of history’ as conceptualised by historian Dipesh Chakrabarty.

David outlined his current work in a Wellcome Trust funded project investigating and conceptualising a comprehensive taxonomy of interventions at the end of life. His contribution was described by Dame Monroe as ‘a breath of academic fresh air’.

The final speaker of the day was Dr. Kenneth J. Doka, Professor of Gerontology and Senior Consultant to the Hospice Foundation in America. A prolific author (see here), Ken’s presentation highlighted the way that a sociological perspective has informed his work in thanatology, through a selective review of the work of pioneers in the field, including Durkheim, Talcott Parsons and Robert Fulton. He covered the dimensions of disenfranchised grief and the differences between intuitive and instrumental grief, issues arising from dissonant grief, grieving styles and post-mortem identity, and public and private grief in a gallop through the many aspects of his expertise.

It was an extraordinary experience to listen to such learned theorists and academics expound on their work in the area of death, dying and bereavement. The considered and thoughtful presentations were thought provoking and inspiring, and, like many of the other attendees, we came away feeling grateful to have been there to listen and absorb.

The International Work Group may not be well known outside academic circles, but the innovation and leadership that flows from the meeting of these minds influences both research and practice in the field of dying, death and bereavement, and ultimately affects us all.

We were privileged to meet some of the most influential thought leaders of our time in this field, and would like to thank John Birrell, Chair of the Planning Group for his kind invitation to take part in the conference.

FFMA reports positive start to the coffin certification scheme at AGM  

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

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(all pictures copyright © 2016FFMA)

Press release from the FFMA with an update on the latest on the coffin testing protocol.

 

‘The funeral industry body, The Funeral Furnishing Manufacturer’s Association (FFMA) has reported a very positive start to its coffin and casket certification scheme at their Annual General Meeting on the 2nd November 2016.

David Crampton – President, in his opening remarks gave thanks to everyone who has been involved in its development and to all of the FFMA members for their patience whilst waiting to submit their coffins for testing. David said “The FFMA scheme has been developed to meet concerns raised by the cremation sector organisations, namely, health and safety issues. Our scheme has been fully endorsed by the cremation sector associations who have worked in partnership with us since requesting our support 4 years ago. The scheme is fully transparent and most importantly, anyone can visit the FFMA website and view the growing number of coffins which have been issued with a unique certification stamp”.

To date 56 FFMA members have uploaded their company profiles to the new and improved FFMA website. 136 coffin, casket and shroud products have been uploaded, 41 of which have already passed the testing protocol. Another 26 having been received by Intertek and are awaiting testing. The vast majority of UK coffin manufacturers have committed to the FFMA scheme. An estimated investment of over £250,000 will be made by those members to certify their products fit for purpose and allay any concerns of the cremation industry.

Julian Atkinson gave a presentation aptly illustrating (with light hearted humour) the key points of the tests. The aim of the presentation is for the FFMA to communicate the basic principles of this highly detailed testing protocol in an easy to understand manner.  The scheme ensures “coffins” are safe to carry and load, are fully combustible, render a compliant amount of ash volume and can therefore be deemed as fit for purpose.  

For more information, please visit the FFMA website: www.FFMA.co.uk or contact: Sue Bullock  (FFMA Secretary), bullocksuee@gmail.com

-Ends-

Local SEO for funeral directors

Friday, 4 November 2016

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Posted by Mark Sharron

This is the fourth part in the “SEO for Funeral Directors” series.  Previous posts can be found here:

Quick Introduction

I am the founder/director of Sussex SEO Ltd.  I have been building websites for clients and optimising them to be found in Google and other search engines since 2006. 

This post will focus on “local SEO” and should build nicely on my previous entries.  It’s always a little difficult to know where to begin so I’ll start with a quick explanation of Google’s first page of results for and build on each concepts/techniques as the article progresses.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below.

What is meant by local SEO

Discounting PPC you have two opportunities to rank for any location based keyword e.g. Brighton Funerals / Brighton Funeral Director.

  1. The local 3 pack, commonly referred to as Google maps.
  2. The traditional 10 organic spots on the home page.

Both the local pack and organic results share a number of common ranking factors; however there are some unique differences required to secure a position in the coveted local pack.  

Creating a local signal for your website can be distilled into three core areas:

Key Concepts

  • Google Maps/My Business
    • Location of Your Business
    • Google My Business/Google Plus
    • NAP Consistency
  • Onsite SEO
    • Business Name / Domain
    • Entities vs Keywords
    • Entity Relationships / Knowedge Graph / Entity Databases (less scary than its sounds)
    • Understanding Semantic Search
    • Maps
    • Youtube Part 1
    • Linking Out
    • Structured Data (this one is a bit scary)
  • Offiste SEO
    • Links
    • Citations
    • Youtube Part 2

Assuming I haven’t lost 90% of the GFG’s readers already, to get things started I’ll explain each of the key concepts, what they are and how they fit into the larger puzzle.

Google Maps / My Business:

Location of Your Business

The first thing to check is the physical location of your business.   Google your keyword, in this case Funeral Directors + Location and look at where the map pins for where your competitors appear.

Google’s objective is to return local results.   If your physical business address is located outside the area you will not be able to get a placement in the local pack.  The same rule holds true if your business is on the perifphory of a locale.   The further you are away from Google’s map centrum the harder it is to rank (not impossible, just harder).

Google My Business

Google My Business (formerly Google Plus, Google Local, Google Places) is the lynchpin that holds everything together. 

A Google business listing is an online profile, it is free to sign up and requires you enter your business name, a link to your website, phone number, opening times, logo, images, email address and business classification.

The key is to fill out your profile 100%.  Until recently it was possible to upload a description however ability has been rescinded giving increased weight to your business name, website URL and website copy.

Google will insist on verifying your business listing with a postcard.  These usually take 1-2 weeks to arrive and will contain a PIN number that must be submitted before your listing will go live.

Ensuring your business listing / associated Google plus page are active / updated regularly, joining local / related communities and acquiring high scoring reviews are also essential ranking ingredients.

NAP Consistency

NAP is short for “Name, Address, Phone Number.”  Google checks to ensure these details are aligned between your Google Plus page and your website.   There are a few important factors to consider.

  1. Ensure your NAP data matches Google Maps.
  • Correct: Brighton, The City of Brighton and Hove
  • Incorrect: Brighton, East Sussex
  1. Place your NAP in your website’s footer.
  2. Ensure your NAP data in your website matches your Google Business listing 100%.

Onsite SEO:

Business Name / Domain:

SEO is a labelling exercise.  Its easier to rank if your business name / domain is a partial match or exact match.   At the very least include “Funerals” or “Funeral Director” in your domain.  It will make your life a LOT easier.

That’s the east stuff out of the way…

Entities vs Keywords

This next section will explore onsite SEO starting with the use of language on your website.  To give you a quick grounding in local SEO it helps to understand the difference between an entity and a keyword.

A keyword is something a user types into the search engine to find something. E.g. Brighton Funeral Director or Sussex Funeral Director

An entity is person, a place an object or a thing.

For example:

  • Brighton (entity) a place
  • Sussex (entity) a place
  • Funeral (entity) a thing/ceremony
  • Funeral director (entity) a thing/profession

Entities are usually associated/related to other entities.  If we review the “onsite SEO” article I posted last year, you can create a ranking signal using placement of keyword throughout your website. 

Avoid Over Optimisation

Placement of too many of the same keyword within page content (more than 4% density) may result into Google penalising your site for over optimisation. 

One of the work arounds is use of related language within the text on your site e.g. coffin, death, cremation, burial to build relevance around the funerary theme.

This technique can be used to boost your website’s “local” relevance by understanding which entities are associated with your “business area” and working these into the fabric of your website.

The easiest way to examine these is via Google’s knowledge graph.   I’ll use Brighton as the example. Click to make it bigger. 

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The important points to pick up on are the entities (locations) that fall within the greater Brighton area, these include Portslade, Falmer, Peacehaven.   If you zoom in on the map you will also find Rottingdean, Whitehawk, Hove, Saltdean, Roedean and a lot more.

In addition, you will notice points of interest located within Brighton and Hove (these are also entities).

Drill down deeper and you will find references to people (check Wikipedia).

Semantic Search

It is these associations of entities and related language that forms the basis of semantic search which is an un-necessarily complicated way of explaining that the search engine is able to understand that concepts are related to one another other.   To cite the above example if I reference “Rottingdean, Whitehawk and Fatboy Slim” the search engine will understand I’m talking about Brighton and Hove.

Local Signals:

To further boost the relevance of your site you can add “local signals.”  Placement of related entities within the text goes a long way but there’s more to it. 

Google Maps:

Add an embedded Google map with your business listing and add a link back to your Google maps/business listing.

YouTube:

Commission a video with a “local” focus (more on this later).  Embed it on your website.

Embed Reviews:

Embed reviews from Google into your site.  This can be done with Google’s API.  You’ll need to ask your web developer to do this.

Link Out:

Reference points of interest / official local government offices (entities) within you text and link to them (make sure Google links to them from its knowledge graph).

Structured Data:

Structured data is a means of adding an invisible layer of code to a website to a enhance ranking signal or control how a website is displayed within Google’s index.

There are multiple forms of structured data, the one most commonly used is referenced at http://schema.org/

The idea behind structured data is to allow a web master to clarify content to the search engine by marking it up with schema.

https://schema.org/LocalBusiness provides a number of actionable examples e.g.
Without Schema:

 <h1>Sussex Funerals Ltd</h1>
Independent Brighton funeral directors for caring, compassion & choice. Providing excellent 24 hour personal service.
185 Portland Road
Hove, The City of Brighton and Hove
Phone: 01273 736469

With Schema:

  1. <div itemscope itemtype=http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
  2. <h1><span itemprop=“name”> Sussex Funerals Ltd</span></h1>
  3. <span itemprop=“description Independent Brighton funeral directors for caring, compassion & choice. Providing excellent 24 hour personal service.</span>
  4. <div itemprop=“address” itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
  5.   <span itemprop=“streetAddress”>185 Portland Road</span>
  6.   <span itemprop=“addressLocality”> Hove</span>,
  7.   <span itemprop=“addressRegion”> The City of Brighton and Hove</span></div>
  8. Phone: <span itemprop=“telephone”>01273 736469</span></div>

This is just scratching the surface with schema.  You can mark up almost every entity imaginable and create associations using the “sameAs” attribute.   Of all the steps I have listed so far this is without a doubt the least accessible to most and I would recommend speaking with your web developer a preferred digital marketing professional to help implement this step.

Offsite SEO:

Links

Link building is an important part of any SEO campaign; in fact, it is essential to ranking well on

Google other search engines. Google places a heavy emphasis on quality and quantity of inbound links as a measurement of how authoritative/trusted a site is for its subject matter.

 

Counting how many 3rd party websites to your website is a means for Google to the reputation/trust/authority if your website.

 

The more competitive a key phrase being targeted; the more links will be needed to achieve a desired search engine rank for a given keyword.

 

Relevant links will rank your site.  Irrelevant links will either be less effective or cause Google to perceive your site as being less relevant.  To give you some examples:

 

  • Funeral focused site e.g. this one = relevant(good link).
  • Brighton / Sussex focused site = relevant to area (good).
  • Site about Death = indirectly relevant (still good).
  • Site about piano’s = irrelevant (bad)

As mentioned above, links are essential to ranking your website.

 

Citations

 

A citation is an implied link and affects your websites prominence in Google’s local pack.

A citation is simply your business name, address and phone number (NAP) placed on a 3rd party site such as a business directory. The trick is to ensure the NAP matches that placed on your Google Business profile and website.

In addition is important to ensure data such as business opening times are aligned.

YouTube:

Google owns YouTube.  It therefore comes as no surprised that Youtube video’s can help influence local SEO prominence.  Creating a video which references your business details and focuses on one of your primary keywords creates a relevant link, citation and rich media which once embedded into a web page will drive your site’s exposure.  This article provides a comprehensive guide.

Conclusion:

Configuring a website to be found within Google for a desirable keyword (SEO) is at its heart an exercise of two halves:

  • A labelling exercise (keyword research: understanding what users search for and labelling your content accordingly)
  • Matching and exceeding your competition (quality / quantity of relevant content & links)

Any questions ???

 

Lifetime Achievement Award

Thursday, 20 October 2016

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Josefine Speyer, wife of the late Nicholas Albery and co-founder and patron of The Natural Death Centre Charity

 

“Despite the list of contenders for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award being jam packed with luminaries from the death world, the judges were unanimous in their decision that this year the award would be given in recognition of a visionary pioneer, the architect of social change, without whom the Good Funeral Awards would probably never have come into being.

In appreciation of his memory, and in tribute to those dedicated individuals who continue to fulfil his dream 25 years on, the judges humbly, and gratefully, and with the greatest of pleasure announce that the Lifetime Achievement Award 2016 goes to the late Nicholas Albery and the Natural Death Centre charity.”

 

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Bridging the Gap Award

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

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Julian Atkinson, managing director of J. C. Atkinson & Son

The ‘Bridging the Gap’ award was introduced this year specifically to acknowledge the work being done by this particular industry supplier who is doing the most to move the funeral business forward.

Julian Atkinson was given this special award in response to the way his company, J. C Atkinson & Sons Ltd, traditionally a manufacturer of wooden coffins has embraced new, greener products into his range.

Wicker, willow, wool, banana leaf and cardboard products to name a few, coffins made from these materials are often branded as ‘alternative products’, but have now started to become accepted as the norm at funerals.

Along with offering such coffins for sale, J. C. Atkinson’s has invested time and money in educating the funeral industry, encouraging the provision of greener products as part of the normal range, making it easier for families to have a wide variety of choice and enabling individuals to have the type of coffin most suited to them, not just a choice from a selection of veneered or highly polished hardwood coffins for their love one.

Julian’s work in this area has been a large part of the reason other smaller, ‘alternative’ manufacturers have been able to bridge the gap across the funeral industry and enable the public to be given a far wider choice as a whole.

Crematorium Assistant of the Year

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

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‘Brass boy’ aka Steve Biggs, of Mortlake Crematorium

 

Steve Biggs has worked as a Chapel Attendant and Crematorium Technician at Mortlake Crematorium, London for three years. There are a great many people in crematoria throughout the country doing Steve’s job and, like Steve, many of them are unsung heroes, too.  It was a hard choice for the judges to choose one from the deserving nominees, but finally Steve was chosen as this year’s Crematorium Assistant of the Year on the strength of this touching testimonial from a colleague:

“Steve is affectionately known as Brass boy! When Steve is on chapel duty you will see him rubbing the brass door handles, door plates and brass on the catafalque vigorously before the first service in the chapel.

“Steve is particularly sensitive to the needs of bereaved parents. Little baby coffins used to be placed on a very old wooden oak board. He transformed this by carving a heart into the solid oak and cleaned and polished it. For each baby funeral he carefully places tea lights and flowers around the board. He selects appropriate and different music for each and every funeral when parents are unable to attend.

“There was an old wooden cross that used to be placed above the catafalque. The cross was often removed for one service and then need to be put back for the next service. This was done by athletically leaping onto the catafalque and placing on a ledge. This does not look respectful in the chapel and was dangerous. Steve cleverly altered a beautiful oak 5’candle holder to hold a brass cross which could be moved easily and looked in keeping with the chapel and lecterns. Of course he polished it too!

“If nobody is attending the service Steve will select music for the person and attend the service, showing respect by bowing as the curtains close. Of course if someone has asked for no music and no service he carried out their wishes. He carries out the family’s or indeed the deceased’s wishes to the highest standard he can, without judgement or opinion.

“Whilst working in the crematory he cleans and polishes the stainless steel. Having a clean chapel and crematorium shows respect for families and the deceased.

“His colleagues love him because he bakes great cakes and sausage rolls. So the numerous diets that are started often come to an end if Steve appears with a tub of homemade chocolate shortbread or freshly made bread. Steve may be 6’2 with a booming voice but he is a gentleman and more importantly he is a kind and caring. He is moved on many occasions by the grief he comes across. His response to this is to do everything he can to look after those people, often these little touches go unnoticed but not by us.

“In the three years he has been at Mortlake Steve has completed his Crematorium Technicians Training Scheme, passed his advanced Cremator Technicians certificate, and passed 3 modules of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management diploma all with distinctions.”

 

Runner Up in this category: Carolyne Reeve of Teesside Crematorium

An afternoon of education at CDAS

Friday, 14 October 2016

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Adam and Eve as portrayed at the Creation Museum Kentucky illustrating John Troyer’s presentation. 

There’s some interesting stuff going on in the world of academia which can go unnoticed in the frenzied world of Facebook updates and Twitterfeed, and yesterday the GFG took a few hours out to go and listen to some learned folk exploring religious responses to contemporary western death practices at the Centre for Society and Death at the University of Bath.

Introduced by good friend of the GFG Professor Tony Walter, the seminar was attended by an eclectic mixture of academics, undergraduates, postgraduates, eminent experts and interested others. Which we think included us. We put our hands up for that anyway.

Tony started things off with a paper on four ways that religions interact with society’s death practices – promotion, opposition,accommodation and compensation. In a compelling canter through illustrations of various ways different religions interact and influence with societies around the world, Tony touched on Mizuko Kuyo, monotheism’s opposition to ancestor worship, Nepalese Christianity, Madagascan death rituals , the popularity of spiritualism post WW1 and the lack of channels for grief provided in Protestant countries that have perhaps led to the development of bereavement memoirs, bereavement counselling and the association of green spaces and nature with soothing of grief.

Next to speak was Dr. Shirley Firth, presenting a paper on outdoor funeral pyres and the legal battle that began ten years ago when devout Hindu Babaji Davender Ghai was refused permission for a traditional open air pyre by Newcastle City Council. Four years later the Court of Appeal ruled that an outdoor pyre would be lawful if it took place in a structure with walls and an opening in the roof – see here. To date, none have. This could be because of the complexity of the various legal processes that would be involved in gaining planning for outdoor cremation given the likely invocation of the Prevention & Control of Pollution Act or the Environmental Protection Act. Undeterred, Mr Ghai continues to hope for his funeral to take place according to his beliefs, see here.

(As a completely irrelevant aside, readers of the blog with fond memories of THAT scene from the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice may be interested to know that Dr. Firth’s son is the one and only Colin Firth. We didn’t realise this yesterday.)

Third up was Dr. Mansur Ali from Cardiff University, presenting  early results from his research into the response from Muslims in Cardiff to the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 which is now enacted. Dr. Ali has explored the feelings and beliefs about organ donation among the Islamic community through interviews and focus groups with Islamic scholars, medical professionals and an online survey, and the impact of presumed consent that results from the Act. Entitled ‘Our Bodies Belong to God’, Dr. Ali’s fascinating presentation explored the conflict experienced for Muslims when considering transplantation of organs from or to a body that is considered the property of God and not of oneself. He outlined some of the questions that arose such as ‘if my corneas are donated to someone whose sight is restored as a result but who then goes on to watch pornography (a sin according to Islam), does this make me also a sinner?’ Results from his findings are of significant interest, and he hopes to gain funding for much more comprehensive research.

The afternoon was rounded off by Dr. John Troyer, Director of CDAS who explored the fundamental Christian response to end of life planning in the United States. Definition of when death occurs, who has the right to determine life or death and the influence of fundamental Christianity were covered in a broad ranging presentation –  protests by Christian groups outside the hospital where Terri Schiavo’s persistent vegetative state was allowed to end in death (despite attempted intervention by President George Bush and his brother Jeb Bush, then governor of Florida), and the lack of support of hospice care from some sections of the Christian Fundamentalist movement illustrated his points, and he ended with a slide showing a placard from the current presidential election campaign stating ‘1st choice for President – God, 2nd choice – Jesus, 3rd choice Trump.’

And on that rather terrifying note, the seminar was over.

Mortuary Assistant of the Year

Sunday, 9 October 2016

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Louise Milligan

Louise Milligan, bereavement services and mortuary manager at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, is a shining example of caring mortuary assistant whose behind-the-scenes role means that her work is rarely seen by members of the public.

In the case of Louise, the testimony of one member of the public explains why she is this year’s award winner:

“Whilst my mother was at the Christie hospital in Manchester, following her death, we met an amazing lady called Louise Milligan. She was the manager there but I have been told she has now left to work as the mortuary manager at Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport. She sat down with me and listened as I vented all my emotions at her and then offered me a cup of tea, which made everything seem better, which makes me smile now! The post mortem was done by her and we couldn’t tell mum had even had one. I asked Louise to show me the stitches as I didn’t believe it and she showed me that the cut was made to the side so that mum could wear her blouse for her funeral. I was so grateful as my mum looked amazing and no cuts or stitches were seen by anyone, it made the post mortem worries go away.

I spoke to two other doctors at Christie about her and was amazed how she has fought for better care after death for patients and physically goes to the wards to help and train staff in care. If requested she dresses the deceased and makes sure that they leave in a very high standard. It amazes me how one person can have so much passion and commitment to a job and care for their patients. Louise called them her patients as she sees them as people and I’ll never forget when she said ’Everyone deserves the highest standards of care. I treat everyone as if they were my own as everyone is somebody’s someone’. She is so warm and caring it is a pleasure to be in her company and you can see that she genuinely cares for everyone she meets.”

NOTE: The correct term for a someone who works in a mortuary is an Anatomical Pathology Technician (APT). Louise is shining example of caring APT whose behind-the-scenes role mean that her work is rarely seen by members of the public. APTs support doctors during post mortems. They need a strong stomach for unusual sights and smells. In 2016 Louise won a Christie Award for her work – http://www.christie.nhs.uk/professionals/work-with-us/you-made-a-difference-award/

 

Runner Up in this category: Lara-Rose Iredale of Guys & St. Thomas NHS Foundation Trust

Most Innovative Death Public Engagement Event

Saturday, 8 October 2016

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Bristol Culture

‘Death and the Human Experience’ & ‘Death, is it your right to choose?’

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Lavish, visually stunning and highly accessible for people of all ages, Death and the Human Experience was conspicuously successful in spurring people to think and talk about death and dying.

The death exhibitions and events programme were amongst the most successful the museum service has seen with almost 63,000 visitors to ‘death: the human experience’. Several thousand people attended the events in person, and listened to recordings on-line, such as the Assisted Dying debate, ‘What is a good death?’ talk, Death Professionals in Conversation, and the Day of the Dead celebration and Death Fair

People in the UK are reluctant to talk about death and dying. They are also reluctant to record their funeral wishes and to make financial provision for their funeral.

By means of stunningly visual exhibits this exhibition encouraged visitors to start the conversation. They were urged to consider ethical issues, differing attitudes to death and how different cultures deal with the end of life – and have dealt with death from earliest times.

The exhibition displayed a diverse range of objects, from a modern Ghanaian fantasy coffin to a Victorian mourning dress, and revealed captivating stories from cultures across the world.

 

Runner Up in this category: Brum YODO

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