FOR most people today a "good death" means being pain-free and
surrounded by loved ones, and does not include making peace with
God at the end, suggests the results this week of research launched
by the Dying Matters Coalition.
The survey, carried out by ComRes found that just five per cent
of people thought that having their spiritual needs met was
essential before dying. In contrast, more than a third said that
being pain-free was the most important, followed by 17 per cent who
thought that being with family was the most important factor in
achieving a good death.
The Church of England, which is part of the Coalition, has this
week launched its own project, GraveTalk, to encourage people to
talk about death and plan their funerals (Comment, 15 May).
GraveTalk provides resources to encourage churches to hold
relaxed, café-style gatherings at which people can talk about death
The resources include a pack of 52 questions about life, death,
society, funerals, and grief to kick-start conversations.
Questions include: "What would you like your lasting legacy to
be?", "How do you feel about being asked to wear bright colours at
a funeral?", and "What music would you like to have played or sung
at your funeral?"
Claire Henry, the chief executive of the National Council for
Palliative Care, which leads the Dying Matters Coalition, said:
"Dying is a fundamental part of life, reflected by the fact that
every week the Church of England conducts over 3000 funerals
attended by around 200,000 people.
"However, despite some encouraging progress, many of us are
still very reluctant to talk openly about dying, death, and
bereavement, and are risking leaving it too late to make our
end-of-life wishes known.
"That's why GraveTalk is such an important initiative and why
the new resources that have been launched are so needed. Talking
about dying and planning ahead may not always be easy, but it can
help you to make the most of life and spare your loved ones from
making difficult decisions about what you would have wanted."
The ComRes survey of more than 2000 adults found that, although
people thought it was more acceptable to talk about dying today
than a decade ago, more than two-thirds of people felt others were
uncomfortable with it as a subject.
The survey also found that only 35 per cent of the public has
written a will; 32 per cent have registered as an organ donor or
have a donor card; 31 per cent have taken out life insurance; 27
per cent have talked to someone about their funeral wishes; and
seven per cent have written down their wishes or preferences about
their future care, should they be unable to make decisions for
The majority of people agreed that quality of life was more
important than its length, and only eight per cent wanted to live
to over 100.
The head of projects and development for the Archbishops'
Council, the Revd Canon Dr Sandra Millar, said: "Whether it is
thinking about what hymns and readings you might want in your
funeral service, or finding someone to listen during the painful
journey of grief, a local church can play a big part in getting
people talking about death and dying."