Intended for healthcare professionals

Views And Reviews

Yes, doctors need to talk about dying, but what if patients start the conversation?

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 05 November 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4648
  1. Mark Taubert, consultant in palliative medicine, honorary senior lecturer, strategic lead for advance care planning12
  1. 1Cardiff University School of Medicine, Wales, UK
  2. 2Wales, UK
  1. mtaubert{at}
    Follow Mark on Twitter @DrMarkTaubert

A recent report called on doctors to initiate conversations about dying earlier on in a patient’s illness trajectory. Mark Taubert describes how patients are key to improving this

I was talking to Neil, an IT worker in his 50s with advanced cancer, about his wishes for when things got worse over the coming year. What would he want medics to try if he was unable to communicate; were there any interventions he’d want to forgo? Neil and I had never met before and already we were talking about the big taboo topic: our dying moments and death.

A recent report by the Royal College of Physicians highlighted how doctors struggle with talking about dying, making them reluctant to broach the subject with patients. It concluded that many …

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