ONLY one in ten of us has had any kind of conversation with
someone about how, or where, we would like to die.
The director of public and parliamentary engagement for the
National Council of Palliative Care (NCPC), Simon Chapman, and the
Dying Matters coalition (which campaigns to promote public
awareness around dying, death and bereavement), say that we do not
talk about death because we are afraid of it, and we fear it
because it represents the unknown.
This is in sharp contrast to the way in which death was viewed
in the early 20th century in Britain. "There was a shorter life
expectancy at that stage," he says. "Dying and death were seen as
part of life, and people were used to it and could talk about
The creation of the NHS and advances in science mean that death
has been largely removed from our homes and communities, and
usually takes place in hospital. "Medical technology has enabled us
to live much longer, which is great; but we've postponed death, not
cancelled it," Mr Chapman says.
Not talking about our own death can cause serious problems for
those we leave behind. "We expect [death] to be difficult and
unpleasant, and, because we don't talk about it, [this expectation]
becomes self-fulfilling," he says.
If we do not plan ahead, we can leave a mess for grieving loved
ones to sort out."It's being able to talk about it without thinking
'If I talk about it I'll make it happen,' or 'It's a long way
off,'" he says.
You don't have to be ill or dying to make plans for the future.
Dying Matters has produced a leaflet to help open up conversations,
5 Things To Do Before You Die, available on its website.
It suggests that the following topics could feature:
Writing a will: Not leaving a will can cause
arguments between family members. Get a will and update it
Funeral arrangements: Burial or cremation; how
it will be paid for; what music you would like, and any special
Care arrangements: If you want to be cared for
at home, or in the community, others are going to have to care for
you. You will need a package of support in place.
Organ donation: Contact the Organ Donation
Register to become a registered donor, and tell someone close to
Care of dependants: Think about care of
dependent children or your spouse. Will your spouse be able to
continue living in your home? Will he or she need extra care?