What is a good death?

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7422.1048 (Published 30 October 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1048

Grandmother's death was a good example

  1. Martin Kittel (martin.kittel{at}gmx.net), general practitioner
  1. 12 Meadow Way, Dorney Reach, Maidenhead SL6 0DS

    EDITOR—My grandmother was what you could call a “grand old dame,” in terms of dignity, not wealth. One day she decided it was time to die. She lay down in her bed and did not get up any more until she was dead—three months later.1

    In the years before this day, with a razor sharp mind in a fragile body, she had often asked if there was any way we could help her to die. She often had health problems and pain. However, she was happy and friendly and still enjoyed life's good moments, family events, parties, etc. She lived life to the full. When she went to a party, she exhausted herself so much; she often had to “pay” for days afterwards.

    I visited her one month before her death. I had to leave the country for a medical attachment in the United States, and we both knew we would not see each other any more. We chatted a whole afternoon, calmly and with breaks—she was already weak. We crowned this by having a small glass of beer together, which she loved. She then gave me her blessing for the future and I left. After I had left the room I cried, but sadness and happiness had melted into one great feeling in my heart during this truly amazing event.

    She died in her room in a nursing home at the age of 95 years, surrounded only by a few of her most cherished items and by my family. I am sure she at one time had feared the anticipation of this great last step in life, but she died in peace, happy and content, and grateful.

    I hope I will one day be able to die up to her standards, in dignity. I hope my family will celebrate a good life (as so nicely put by Syed (first letter2) on my deathbed, just like their ancestors celebrated my birth and birthdays.


    • Competing interests None declared


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