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Costa Rica – End of Life Issues

Costa Rica is a Central American country known for its natural beauty, eco-tourism, and high-quality healthcare system. End of life care in Costa Rica is generally provided through hospice and palliative care programs, which aim to support patients and their families during the end-of-life process.

Hospices in Costa Rica

Hospice care in Costa Rica is provided by a combination of public and private entities. The country has several hospice facilities that offer inpatient care, as well as home-based hospice programs. Many of these programs are run by non-profit organizations and rely on donations and volunteers to operate.

Some of the main hospice providers in Costa Rica include:

  1. Asociación Nacional de Cuidados Paliativos (ANCP): a non-profit organization that provides palliative care and hospice services throughout the country.

  2. Hospital Nacional de Geriatría y Gerontología: a public hospital that offers palliative care services for patients with advanced illnesses.

  3. Hospice La Caja: a private hospice that provides end-of-life care for patients with terminal illnesses.

Customs and Practices for Death in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a unique and diverse cultural heritage that influences the way death and dying are viewed and approached. Here are some of the local customs and practices for death in Costa Rica:

  1. Family involvement: In Costa Rican culture, family plays a central role in end-of-life care. Family members are typically responsible for providing emotional support and caregiving for their loved ones.

  2. Religious practices: Costa Rica is a predominantly Catholic country, and many end-of-life practices are influenced by Catholicism. This includes religious ceremonies, such as funerals and memorials, and a belief in an afterlife.

  3. Wake: A wake, known as a velorio, is a common practice in Costa Rican culture. The family of the deceased will hold a vigil for their loved one, which usually involves prayer, music, and food. The wake may take place at home or at a funeral home.

  4. Burial customs: In Costa Rica, burials are typically held within 24-48 hours of death. Cremation is becoming more common, but traditional burials are still the norm. Family members may play a role in preparing the body for burial and choosing the burial site.

What to do When Someone Dies in Costa Rica

When someone dies in Costa Rica, there are several important steps that must be taken. Here is a general guide to what you should do:

  1. Notify authorities: If the death occurs in a hospital or other medical facility, the staff will typically handle the necessary paperwork and arrangements. If the death occurs at home, you should contact the nearest medical facility or the police to report the death.

  2. Obtain a death certificate: Once the death has been reported, you will need to obtain a death certificate. This is typically issued by the local civil registry office.

  3. Contact funeral home: You will need to contact a funeral home to make arrangements for burial or cremation. The funeral home will handle the transportation of the body and help you with the necessary paperwork.

  4. Notify family and friends: It is important to notify family and friends of the death. This can be done through phone calls, emails, or social media.

  5. Cancel services: If the deceased had any services or subscriptions, such as utilities or phone service, you will need to cancel these as soon as possible.

  6. Settle affairs: If the deceased had any outstanding debts or legal matters, you will need to settle these as soon as possible. This may involve contacting an attorney or financial advisor.

  7. Grieve and celebrate: Finally, it is important to take time to grieve.


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    In conclusion, end-of-life care in Costa Rica involves a combination of medical care and cultural customs. Hospices are available for patients who require palliative care, while local customs and practices focus on respecting the dead and providing emotional support to the family. When someone dies, it is important to follow the legal requirements and notify the appropriate authorities, as well as the family’s chosen funeral home or mortuary.


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