Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Enabling more dying people to remain at home.

British Medical Journal 1993; 307 doi: (Published 09 October 1993) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1993;307:915
  1. G Thorpe
  1. Moorgreen Hospital, Southampton.


    When it comes to dying there is no place like home. Since earliest times most cultures have accepted that dying people should remain at home. But this was never possible for all. Some were destined to die in accidents, on battlefields, by execution, and from catastrophic illness, maybe many miles away. Nevertheless, with few exceptions people could expect to die in their own beds and in the bosom of their families. In Europe from the Middle Ages until a century ago there was a simplicity about dying. Aware that the end was approaching, people would take to their sickbeds and preside over the ritual. The family, including children, friends, and neighbours would congregate. The ceremony was public and doctors often complained about overcrowding. Death was not regarded as a frightening event and was accepted as an inevitable and integral part of life. Dramatic changes in attitudes to death have taken place since the mid-nineteenth century. The natural acceptance of a biological reality has been lost and people are now unable to come to terms with their own mortality. One consequence is that death has become institutionalised. This paper seeks to answer five questions. These refer to where people die, where they would choose to die, where they spend their last year of life, the reasons for admission for terminal care, and whether more dying people could remain at home. Discussion is restricted to adults in the United Kingdom. References are mostly from the past decade.