What is a good death?

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7422.1047-f (Published 30 October 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1047

Humour may be important even at the end

  1. David F Bird (dfbird{at}doctors.org.uk), general practitioner
  1. French Weir Health Centre, Taunton TA1 1XH

    EDITOR—I write to contribute to the discussion of what constitutes a good death.1 Some years ago my colleague Peter was dying from secondaries from a bowel carcinoma. Looked after devotedly by his wife and his medical carers, Peter gradually deteriorated. However, even near the end he was able to spend a day on his beloved West Somerset Railway, organised by friends.

    A northerner, Peter shared a blunt, affectionate, sense of humour with my wife, Joan. Saying farewell, after what was to be our last visit to him, Peter commented that he was worn out and now just wanted to go with dignity. With her usual speedy repartee Joan replied: “You've never done anything with dignity before, Peter. Why start now?” Peter's chuckles remain with us as a memory of a very brave man and as a reminder of the importance of laughter in our lives, even at the end.


    • Competing interests None declared


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