Few Britons discuss dying or make forward plans


UK – In a life of inevitabilities it is the most obviously inescapable fate of all, yet remarkably few Britons have discussed their death and its aftermath, according to a survey, with little more than a third having made a will. While more than 30% of people

think about their death at least once a week, nearly three-quarters believe their fellow Britons are uncomfortable discussing dying and bereavement, according to a poll by the

The study of more than 2,000 people found only 35% said they had made a will, 32% had registered as an organ donor and 27% talked about their wishes for a funeral. A mere 7% had discussed what sort of care they might want if they are unable to make their own decisions, while only 18% said they had spoken to a family member about the way they might want to end their life.

Such a general lack of planning was also the case among those with dependants: of people with children under 18 living with them, little more than a quarter had made instructions as to who would look after them should the parent die, or planned for inheritance issues. Only 40% had taken out life insurance.

Prof Mayur Lakhani, a GP in Leicestershire who chairs the Dying Matters Coalition, said: “There are encouraging signs that talking about dying is becoming less of a taboo than previously, but too many people are continuing to avoid facing up to their own mortality and are not putting plans in place.

“The public and health professionals alike need to become more comfortable talking about dying and discussing options for end of life care. We know that many people have strong views about their end of life wishes, but unless they talk about them and plan ahead they are unlikely to be met.”

A parallel strand of the survey, undertaken for Dying Matters Awareness Week, the sixth of its kind, which seeks to encourage debate on the subject, found a general consensus that quality of life is more important than length, with just 8% of people saying they would like to live to over 100.

When asked about what constituted a good death, a third of people cited a lack of pain, while 17% named being with family and friends. Three-quarters said end-of-life care should be a fundamental part of the NHS.

The Dying Matters Coalition, which is led by the National Council for Palliative Care, has more than 30,000 members, also including care homes, hospices, GPs, funeral directors and financial organisations.

Claire Henry, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “Talking about dying and planning ahead may not be easy, but it can help us to make the most of life and spare our loved ones from making difficult decisions on our behalf or dealing with the fallout if we haven’t got our affairs in order.”

See the Guardian link below to fill out the form and join their discussion on dying and bereavement.