Intended for healthcare professionals


Patient centred death

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 24 July 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:174
  1. Jocalyn Clark (, editorial registrar
  1. BMJ

    We need better, more innovative research on patients' views on dying

    A good death has always been important in all cultures. To achieve your chosen afterlife you died either well (euthanatos) or nobly (kalosthanein). But what is a good death in a world that for many is post-religious and medicalised? We know something from research on patients and their families—but not nearly enough. We need much better research that uses innovative and different methods.

    We don't have good data on how people die (as opposed to what they die of), but there is a strong impression that many die badly.1 People do not die in the places they wish or with the peace they desire. Probably too many die alone, in pain, terrified, mentally unaware, without dignity, or feeling alienated. People who are poor, from ethnic minorities, or marginalised may have even worse deaths.

    Modern dying involves a struggle for control. Some doctors fear failure when they cannot keep their patients …

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