In both the US and Japan, death occurs most frequently during older adulthood from chronic illness as opposed to during childhood or from infectious disease. Death also generally takes place in hospitals surrounded by medical professionals compared with in the home. Past the statistics, there is still an element of choice as to how/where one would prefer to pass. This type of decision contributes to their idea of good or bad ways to die (Long 2004).
In the video Home Funeral Discussed, Merilynne explains that our perception of death in the US is not healthy. That other cultures mourn and then celebrate the lives of the deceased whereas we often want to act like it never happened, which in turn causes future mental stressors down the road (Rush 2012). In the US and similarly in Japan, many people often feel the ideal death happens in a controlled setting such as a hospital or hospice, surrounded by emotional accompaniment such as a close family member or doctor and is free from suffering. Other ideal death scenarios shared by both Japan and the US include, dying a peaceful death that is pain free, being surrounded by family, and the knowing that one will not be a burden on the family after they die. In Japan, some people are either strongly for or against euthanasia in certain situations, as well as dying from a condition they do not know they have. In the US, our primary religion is Christianity where the idea is held that eternal heaven is the next step after death. In Japan, those that do not closely follow a religion might fear death in a greater way due to the absence of belief in an afterlife (Long 2004).
In China, three major religions have helped to shape their beliefs around death: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Similar to the US, the Chinese often do not talk about death – their reason being that talking about death will upset their inner harmony. They also believe that death is a natural aspect of life that must be accepted. Assuming one has lived a moral life, immortality will come after death. Dying in a hospice or hospital in China is also most common due to the belief that dying in the home will leave bad energy. If this does occur, this energy will need to be cleared so bad luck does not follow. After death of a family member, a white cloth will be hung outside the house to represent mourning; red cloths will be placed inside over all the statues of gods to represent good fortune. Similar to the US, Chinese also have funerals. Generally bodies are washed and dusted with talcum powder, then dressed in their best clothing. They are buried in coffins, and paper money is burned to bring good fortune in the afterlife (Fersko-Weiss, 2017).
How exactly is death determined? One article compared brain death between China and the US and found that the criteria to govern brain death varied between these two countries. Brain death means that ones brain stops functioning, while their heart and organs may continue to work. In this case, both countries govern the right to give consent to take patients off treatment with the knowing they will pass away. It was found that the requirements in the US to determine a patient brain dead were less intensive than those in China. China requires repeated tests 12 hours after the first tests conclude a patient brain dead while the US requires fewer tests and no repeat testing. A reason for this is that in China, the public sometimes has less trust in doctors in decisions like these so absolute accuracy is increasingly necessary (Ding, et al,. 2015). In China, families are also less likely to take patients off treatment, as they want to pay their duty to that family member (Fersko-Weiss, 2017).
Ding, Z.-Y., Zhang, Q., Wu, J.-W., Yang, Z.-H., & Zhao, X.-Q. (2015). A Comparison of Brain Death Criteria between China and the United States. Chinese Medical Journal, 128(21), 2896–2901.
Fersko-Weiss, H. (2017, June 23). The Chinese approach to death and dying. Retrieved from https://www.inelda.org/the-chinese-approach-to-death-and-dying/
Long, S. O. (2004). Cultural scripts for a good death in japan and the united states: Similarities and differences.Social Science & Medicine, 58(5), 913-928. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2003.10.037
Rush, M., (2012, September 25). Home Funeral Discussed. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaVJfJsflP0