Attitudes must change if we are to achieve a good death for all, say experts

September 17, 2010, British Medical Journal

Society's attitudes towards dying, death and bereavement need to change if we are to achieve a good death for all, say experts in a special series of articles published in the British Medical Journal today in the first BMJ "Spotlight" supplement.

By 2030 the annual number of deaths around the world is expected to rise from 58 million to 74 million, but too many people still die alone, in pain, without dignity, or feeling alienated.

The articles aim to remedy this by exploring how lessons learnt from end of life care for cancer patients can be adapted for those dying from like and dementia.

"Palliative care beyond cancer" also topped a recent BMJ poll of topics respondents wanted to read more about, suggesting that doctors are keen to be more open about death and deliver better end of life care for their patients.

In the first article, Scott Murray and Kirsty Boyd say that the ability to make an accurate and timely diagnosis of dying is "a core clinical skill that could be done better in all care settings." They believe that education and training of staff are central to the success of end of life policies in the UK.

The need for mandatory training is supported by Professor John Ellershaw and colleagues who argue that to achieve a good death for all "we need a fundamental shift of emphasis." They say "we must strive to ensure that a good death is the expectation rather than the exception in all settings."

In another article about having the difficult conversations about the end of life, GP Stephen Barclay and oncologist Jane Maher believe that clinicians need to create repeated opportunities for patients to talk about their future and end of life care, while respecting the wishes of those who do not want to discuss such matters. "The right conversations with the right people at the right time can enable patients and their loved ones to make the best use of the time that is left and prepare for what lies ahead," they write.

Talking about dying is also the subject of an article by Professor Jane Seymour and colleagues. They say: "Eradicating ignorance among clinicians, patients, and the public about what can be achieved with modern and encouraging dialogue about end of life care issues are important means of changing attitudes."

Finally, Professor Aziz Sheikh and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh explore how the spiritual needs of dying patients can be understood and met in pluralist and secular societies. They believe healthcare workers "need to be aware of their role in listening to patients, their carers and families, and others in the wider healthcare system with knowledge and understanding of the nuances of religious and cultural traditions."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.