Reviews TV

How to Have a Good Death

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 30 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:799
  1. Abi Berger, associate editor (
  1. BMJ, and general practitioner, London

    If death were treated with as much respect as illness, and not as an embarrassing afterthought, most people dying in the United Kingdom would have an entirely different experience. As with diseases, there would be specific care pathways and a clear recognition that at a precise clinical point there would be a switch from actively treating illness to the active management of death. It is a hard concept for most of us health professionals to get our heads around, and recognising when this point has arrived is difficult, unless we are specifically trained to spot the signs. It can be harder still for friends and relatives who remain largely in the dark about what happens as death approaches.

    To die pain free, in peace, and with dignity, surrounded by our family, is how most of us would like to die. But according to the BBC's 90 minute documentary How to Have a Good Death, presented by Esther Rantzen, most of the 12 000 people who die in the United Kingdom each week do not achieve this. If you die from cancer, you may be …

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