The chances of having a ‘good death’ are still slimJanuary 23rd, 2012 by Paul Hensby
There’s a lot happening in the normally quiet death and dying space. Much of this activity is due to the London Southbank Centre’s courageous decision to put on a week’s events centred on death, in an attempt to reduce society’s reluctance to face mortality.
Part of this will be Sandi Toksvig’s memorial lecture, which she trails with her trademark endearing and engaging wit here.
I’m also looking forward to Paul Gambaccini’s Desert Island Death Discs event, as it will look at the top funeral songs and what they tell us us about our attitudes to departing this world. Will he, I wonder, have gone through the 130 or so lists of farewell songs sent in by visitors to My Last Song?
The Natural Burial Ground’s funeral survey results have also been released, and have some interesting if rather partial findings. The survey has clearly and unsurprisingly been answered mainly by those in or close to the funeral business. What we liked about the results was the large percentages of people who go online to get information about funerals and who have written down or told relatives of their funeral wishes.
Sadly as these wishes are often misplaced or disregarded, such admirable intentions are a waste of time. Which is why people should store their funeral wishes and the vital information required by close loved ones immediately after the death in their own Lifebox.
High on the news agenda today was the story that data from the Office for National Statistics showed that dehydration or malnutrition was linked to 25 deaths every week last year. This is the shocking and depressing counterpoint to the admirable efforts others are making, often out of benevolent self interest, to encourage a change in how the British in particular look at death.
Depressingly it is still true that the vast majority of people don’t think about death and don’t talk about death until it is literally too late. And so the chances of having a good death are still remote as we pointed out earlier, with almost 70 per cent of people dying in hospitals or hospices even though over two thirds say they want to die at home.
My Last Song has supported the case for the terminally ill and the ailing elderly to have their own personal death plans, rather as mums-to-be have birth plans. This way the issues surrounding the end of life can be addressed in as calm a way as possible, with the involvement of loved ones, medical professionals and if appropriate, ministers of religion or other comforters.
After some research we created a holistic death plan template which covers emotional, physical, medical, practical and spiritual issues to make the end of life as comfortable and comforting as possible.
Funeral wishes, death plans and the raising of the public’s consciousness about death and dying are pointing in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go.