Wednesday, 16 July 2008

This mortal coil

The deathbed is a cornerstone of fiction. Miners coughing themselves to death in back rooms, Victorian ladies expiring on large, linen-draped feather beds, night nurses snoozing over their charges, doctors with whiskers and black bags recommending bed rest, tonics and purges.

These days things have changed and death is not something we do at home. Four out of five people die in hospital or hospice, although many would prefer to die at home. Now the Department of Health is preparing to outline plans for an end of life care strategy. Marie Curie have been campaigning on this issue for over four years.

One of the reasons it is difficult to organise end of life care is that we don't like to talk about death. Half the time we can't even say it. We don't die - we pass on, go home, are gathered in, go to sleep, are called to the Lord, pop our clogs, kick the bucket, croak, cross the bar or shuffle off this mortal coil. Discussing this issue on the Today programme this morning Health Secretary Alan Johnson said some programmes had refused to discuss this issue as it was "too depressing".

Death cannot be swept under the carpet. We may use surgery to make us look younger, but death will still come. It affects every one of us. We should all have a say in care of the dying because one day we will all breathe our last.

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