Talking about "a good death" on BBC Radio 4

On Saturday 3 January, two Nurses from our Nettlebed Hospice were visited by the BBC.

They were interviewed by Paddy O’Connell for his Broadcasting House programme that airs on BBC Radio 4 every Sunday. The reason for the interview? To talk about a very topical conversation taking place at the moment, following Dr Richard Smith's blog in the British Medical Journal. His blog has created a lot of conversation - stating that Cancer "is the best way to die" - and his blog has recently received a lot of coverage in the media. 

You can listen to the interview on Audioboom.

It's not the condition

In our experience, it’s not the condition that dictates whether someone has a “good death”, but how you die that is important. Focusing on the condition inhibits personalisation and informed choice for patients and their families.

Instead, we work closely to find out what the most important elements of end of life care are for them. We think that a good death is all about coordinated, personalised and compassionate care, where the dying person and their loved ones have access the support services that they need and want 24/7.

Being free from pain

Research that we carried out previously shows that the two main factors that are most important to people when they are dying are:

  • Being free from pain and discomfort (78% of people surveyed)
  • Being surrounded by their loved ones (71%) 

This was followed by:

  • Having privacy and dignity (53%)
  • Being in familiar surroundings (45%)
  • Being in calm and peaceful atmosphere (45%)

Fulfilling the above as much as possible in line with patients’ needs and preferences is what palliative care is all about. It’s about making someone as comfortable as possible at the end of life, no matter what the condition, through pain and symptom management - whilst also providing psychological, social, emotional and spiritual support to the individual as well as their carers and family.

Coming to terms

For us at Sue Ryder, a “good death” means delivering this holistic approach as soon as possible. The earlier we reach individuals who are at the end of life, the sooner we can help to improve their quality of life. End of life can be days or weeks, but if can also mean months and years, and our Day Hospice services and Community Nurse Specialists mean that we can now deliver more support to more people and help them to come to terms with and manage their condition before they are at that final stage.  

We are pleased that dying is being talked about, as we don’t discuss it in much detail as a society and a country. When we ignore something we fail to shine a spotlight on it to improve it. It is omitted from many public debates, and remains one of the last social taboos.

With huge pressure on health and care services it is important that the needs of dying people are not forgotten.

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Sue Ryder team