Week 3 Activity Post

I chose to look at death in Brazil.

In the Susan Long article about death in Japan and the United States, Long points out several similarities and differences between how death is treated in the two countries. A large similarity between the two countries is that regardless of when the patient dies, there is “the presence of the attending physician and nurse at whatever hour death occurs” in order to declare time of death for the deceased (Long 2004). However, there seem to be more differences than similarities between these countries. In the US, Long describes how in discussions about dying “Christian assumptions frame the discussion” whereas “the great majority of Japanese do not claim any particular religious faith, and rarely participate in religious rituals” (Long 2004). These differences in spirituality make a large difference in how these two cultures view and treat death. One of the major differences in issues concerning death due to these contrasting spiritualties is the issue of “timing”. In the US, “the criterion for the appropriate time for dying… was not chronological age but “hopelessness” (Long 2004). Regardless of if the patient is young or old, if there is no evidence that the person will live a fully conscious life, then death might be allowed to happen. However, in Japan there is a large focus on chronological age such that “it was expected that everything would be done to save the life of a child… in contrast, the death of an elderly person… is accompanied by a sense that it might have been expected” (Long 2004).

In looking into how death is treated in Brazil as compared to these two countries I found some similarities. The main similarity is the declaration of death needs to be by a physician. According to a Brazilian media channel called “The Brazil Business”, “if the death occurs in a hospital or at home and a doctor is present, then the doctor will issue a Death Certificate… if a doctor is not present, one should be called” (The Brazil Business 2018). Brazil is also similar to the US in that Christianity is the main religion, and therefore “burials are more common than cremation” (The Brazil Business 2018). Another similarity I found was, again, between Brazil and the US. As mentioned, in the US, if a young child is “hopeless” it might be an appropriate time for them to pass. According to the book Death, Mourning, and Burial: A Cross-Cultural Reader, by Antonius Robben, in Brazil “the death of an infant or a very young child was treated as a blessing… who died unregretted because his or her future happiness was assured” (Robben 2017). Although the reasoning for the reaction to deaths of young children are different between the US and Brazil, for both countries there is a sense of acceptance if a young child does unfortunately pass.

While American funerals may last up to a week, Brazilian funerals last a maximum of 48 hours, or 2 days. This is an incredibly short amount of time to grieve the deceased, but it is due to the way that the grieving in done in Brazil. In the US and Japan, the funeral is often done “as a homage to the person’s trajectory”, however in Brazil the funeral is solely for the purpose of “focusing on the pain of the loss and nothing more” (The Brazil Business 2018). Brazilian funerals are almost never held at home and instead take place at “velórios”, which are “public or private buildings used to morn the dead”, similar to funeral homes (The Brazil Business 2018). During this very short morning period, “it is not uncommon to see people passing out, screaming, or overreacting when the coffin is closed… Brazilians concentrate all their despair and pain in the funeral” (The Brazil Business 2018). This is the major difference I found between how death is dealt with in US and Japan versus Brazil. In Brazil there is a much greater focus on the loss of the person, versus in the US and Japan the focus after death is about the life of the individual.

 

Sources

“Funeral Customs in Brazil.” The Brazil Business, thebrazilbusiness.com/article/funeral-customs-in-brazil.

Long, Susan Orpett. “Cultural scripts for a good death in Japan and the United States: similarities and differences.” Social Science & Medicine 58.5 (2004): 913-928.

Robben, Antonius CGM, ed. Death, mourning, and burial: a cross-cultural reader. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

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