Doulas are often associated with helping mothers during birth, but historically, they also played a role in helping women at the end of life too, especially in the black community.
Mistrust Of The Medical System Among Black Women
Currently, many women of color mistrust the medical system in the US. Black women, in particular, are skeptical in accepting the advice of medical practitioners for fear that they may make decisions that aren't in their best interest.
When it comes to end-of-life care, communication skills are essential. Both medical professionals and their patients need to be able to discuss options in a clear and transparent way. Research shows, however, that the quality of interactions that black women have with their doctors is much lower than that of white women, leading to misunderstandings that ultimately affect patient care. Doulas are ideal in this situation, acting as a bridge between the patient and the medical system, but many black women do not have access to these services anymore.
Blacks In General Are More Likely To Undergo Intensive End-Of-Life Treatment
This lack of communication may be why so many more black women undergo intensive end-of-life treatments. Around 45 percent of Medicare beneficiaries make use of hospice services, compared to just 34 percent of African Americans. African Americans are less likely to receive pain medication at the end of life, especially if they live in deprived communities.
Doulas were once regularly paired with women of color to assist in circumstances in which a women’s health was threatened. In recent decades, there’s been a falling off in the number of black women getting this support. While doulas were traditionally set aside for women of color, they’ve become increasingly popular among white women, and more and more doulas are themselves white. People from wealthier racial groups can pay for the services of doulas, and many are choosing to do so. It’s created a disparity between the service received by white women and that received by women of color.
Grassroots Doulas Are Trying To Change Racial Bias In The Medical System
Some doulas are, however, changing the status quo. The purpose of doulas is to provide community-based support for all women, but some have chosen to help black women receive quality care.
The medical community likes to throw around statistics about how mortality statistics are improving over time for women of color, but statistics make it easy to forget that each person facing death is an individual who will ultimately take his or her last breath.
Doulas are a necessary societal support system who are there to represent all women in their time of need. However, with the support of a competent doula, women of color's lives can be enhanced and at times extended.
The current medical system provides medical support, but there’s a lack of emotional and spiritual assistance - something that the medical community often doesn’t feel comfortable providing nor have the proper training to do so. Death doulas are an ideal intermediary that can provide the totality of support women of color need as they approach the end of their lives.