The End of Life Doula - Who, Why, When?

by Reverend Betty Hurley

Although over 70% of Americans say they would prefer to die at home, over 70% of Americans die in the hospital, often in the ICU Unit.  There are many reasons why so many have their last moments where they did not wish to be, but one is often our reluctance to approach the topic of death with family and friends.


An End of Life Doula can help facilitate those conversations. Knowledgeable about options in the area for those facing medical challenges, they can work with the patient and their family and friends to identify the best option for their situation. An End of Life Doula can also assist the family with identifying and completing a legacy project- perhaps a photo album or a music collection or collage. And, if wanted, a plan for the final days can be written down so family and friends know what is desired even if the patient becomes unable to communicate wishes.


After a death, the End of Life Doula continues to work with family and friends as they grieve.


You may have heard of a Birth Doula, someone who contracts with an expecting couple to assist through the pregnancy and birthing process.  Henry Fersko-Weiss, Executive Director of the International End of Life Doula Association and creator of the term, End of Life Doula, built his model on that of the Birth Doula. He even took their training to gain ideas for how to train an End of Life Doula.


The role of End of Life Doula is still quite new.  Training programs are increasing.  They include training from the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), which also maintains a director of End of Life Doulas.  The University of Vermont has a certificate program, available fully online.


For further information, check out some of these resources:


The International End of Life Doula Organization (includes resources and directory)


End of Life Doula Training through Lifespan (includes resources)


AARP article about End of Life Doulas

Huffpost article about End of Life Doulas

© 2019 by Saratoga Family Health NPs