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Let’s talk about dying

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 17 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3018
  1. Mayur Lakhani, general practitioner, chairman of the Dying Matters Coalition and the National Council for Palliative Care, and past chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners
  1. MK.Lakhani{at}

Imagine a situation where most people with a common condition do not have it diagnosed. Where opportunities are repeatedly missed to identify the problem and to offer structured evidence based care. Where people are too often denied a chance to influence their care in a planned proactive way. This area of healthcare generates 54% of all hospital complaints.

What is this condition? Dying. Despite huge advances and successes in end of life care in the United Kingdom, of which we should be rightly proud, we have not yet managed to transform care. Someone in Britain dies every minute, yet many of us are afraid to discuss dying, leaving many people unprepared and unable to plan. All of us must do more to talk about this if we are to give patients the best chance of a good death.

Even people with advanced progressive illness who are admitted to hospital are often not identified for end of life care, meaning that many patients who could benefit from palliative care never have that opportunity. Too many people still die in distress with uncontrolled symptoms, are inappropriately …

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