Dying Wishes Vary by Culture and Gender

People have markedly different ideas about who should take care of them as they approach death, depending on their culture, gender and other factors.

Whites and African Americans generally do not think their families should be burdened, and they're open to the idea of nursing homes and hospice care, shows a new study of 73 people over age 50.

All Arab Americans in the study stress that families take care of the dying. They "try desperately not to go in a nursing home," the study reports.

Among Hispanics, dying with dignity and not having someone change their diapers are among the greatest concerns. Hispanics are receptive to hospice care and hospitals but wish to avoid nursing homes. They are more likely than other groups to want to control where they die, and generally do not want feeding tubes.

"One of the most important findings in our study is that there are so many different points of view," said Sonia Duffy of the University of Michigan Medical School. "We should keep in mind that our country's medical system is based on Western values, and that those values may not translate to other cultures."

The findings are detailed in the current issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Some gender differences were noted, too.

Hispanic men, in general, want little medical intervention at the end of life, while Hispanic women tend to favor extensive medical intervention. The split was similar between African American men and women.

Hispanic men prefer assisted suicide more than women.

"I don't think it is suicide if you've already been predetermined and everyone knows that you're going to die," said one Hispanic man in the study.

Live Science Staff
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.