Intended for healthcare professionals


A good death

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 15 January 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:129

An important aim for health services and for us all

  1. Richard Smith, editor
  1. BMJ

    The art of living well and dying well are one.


    Death is one of the attributes you were created with; death is part of you. Your life's continual task is to build your death.


    Are you ready to die? If not, then you might begin some preparation. Every BMJ reader will die this century, and death is constantly beside us. Montaigne urged, “One should be ever booted and spurred and ready to depart.” Yet that has not been the attitude of the past 50 years, and modern medicine may even have had the hubris to suggest implicitly, if not explicitly, that it could defeat death.1 If death is seen as a failure rather than as an important part of life then individuals are diverted from preparing for it and medicine does not give the attention it should to helping people die a good death. We need a new approach to death, and the debate of the age on older people has provided a clarion call: “We believe it is time to break the taboo and to take back control of an area [death] which has been medicalised, professionalised, and sanitised to such an extent that it is now alien to most people's daily …

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