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Can Death Cafés resuscitate morale in hospitals?
  1. Rachel Hammer1,
  2. Nithya Ravindran2,
  3. Nathan Nielsen3
  1. 1 Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
  2. 2 Psychiatry, Tulane University, New Orleans, USA
  3. 3 Critical Care, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rachel Hammer, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA; rhammer{at}


Death Cafés are non-profit social franchises that arise spontaneously in communities to serve as informal forums for discussing death. There is a great need within the medical community for the kind of conversation that Death Cafés foster: open, unstructured, spontaneous, genuine and interdisciplinary dialogue. Burnout in healthcare, with symptoms of exhaustion, depersonalisation and decreased efficacy, is a global crisis, with alarming estimates suggesting one in three practicing physicians experience burnout. While open-forum community-based Death Cafés exist widely, there appears to be no evidence in the literature to suggest that healthcare settings have adapted this model for fostering debriefings among hospital employees. We have started hospital-based Death Cafés in a large, public, urban-centre, Level I Trauma centre in the Gulf South in an effort to study healthcare worker burnout. In this brief commentary, we introduce the concept of hospital-based Death Cafés as distinct from community-based Death Cafés. From our experience, hospital-based Death Cafés are easy to implement, inexpensive, require little planning and yet offer tremendous reward to participants. Should the phenomenon of Death Cafés take off in hospitals as it has in communities internationally, we propose that this intervention be studied for its effect on healthcare worker burnout.

  • arts in health/arts and health
  • palliative care
  • palliative medicine
  • medical humanities

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  • Contributors RH authored this article with the assistance of NR and NN.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.