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75% say it's health professionals' job to discuss death

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Death remains a taboo subject in Britain, according to new research commissioned by the Dying Matters Coalition.

Although the majority of people think that talking about death is less of a taboo than it was 20 years ago, two-thirds of all people agree that people in Britain are uncomfortable discussing dying and death.

The research, which has been released to coincide with the second annual Dying Matters Awareness Week (16-22 May 2011) finds few people have discussed with their partner the type of funeral they want (33%), whether they have a will (33%) where they would like to die (16%) or the type of care and support they would want at the end of their lives (18%). 

Women are a lot more likely than men to have had discussions with their parents, but both men and women are more likely to have spoken with their partner than their parents - just one in four people have spoken to their parents about whether they have made a will and only 11% have discussed with them where they would like to die.

The survey also found that more than three-quarters of people (78%) think that it is part of a health professional’s job to talk to them about where they would like to be cared for when dying and where they would like to die. And 14% think this should happen when you are healthy and well, 52% when you are diagnosed with a life limiting illness and 12% when you are very ill and close to dying.

Nursing Times also found in their poll that of the nurses surveyed, 44.8% said they felt they had not been adequately trained to discuss dying, death and bereavement.

Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters Coalition commented: “Although someone in Britain dies every minute, our research has found that many people do all they can to avoid talking about dying. It’s encouraging that most people think talking about death is less of a taboo now than previously, but there is still a long way to go.”

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Readers' comments (2)

  • michael stone

    I am involved in a discussions about EoLC deaths, with the Department of Health and various other people.

    I do not know, what question Nursing Times asked, to get this:


    Nursing Times also found in their poll that of the nurses surveyed, 44.8% said they felt they had not been adequately trained to discuss dying, death and bereavement.


    But, I would find it helpful, if as many nurses as possible, would anwer these 2 questions for me:

    1 Is adequate training 'about deaths' provided ?

    2 Is the training about death, 'clear and consistent', or is it 'confusing and full of contradictions' ?

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  • michael stone

    I have just realised my first question as perhaps badly expressed: what I'm asking, is is enough time spent on training 'about deaths'.

    The second question, is asking how good the training is.

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