This paper aims to describe the content and import of a conference held in partnership between Staffordshire University and The National Spirituality and Mental Health Forum on the importance of considering life in the context of human mortality, and the meaning and purpose of our lives. It was one of a series of conferences on the theme of health and multi‐belief systems; other conferences were on mental health and civic regeneration. A fourth conference is planned for 2012 on dementia and beliefs.
The conference and its format, including case studies is placed within the intense debate concerning the meaning of life in the context of death and what might be beyond “the grave”. With this conversation, and the issue of assisted dying becoming more prevalent, it was felt important to bring into the paper not just philosophical writings but examples from novels and “popular culture” which highlight the intensity of the dialogue.
Considering the perspectives of a variety of major belief systems assists in relating to and caring for the increasing diversity of older people and their carers when the ultimate challenge of dying is being faced.
As the discourse around assisted dying, belief systems and dignity come more to the fore, staff in health and social care will need time to discuss what are crucial issues for those they serve.
As religion and other belief systems come back into focus, partly through equalities legislation and increased demographic diversity, the Staffordshire University/National Spirituality and Mental Health Forum conference series has been an innovative way of meeting this renewed need.
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