University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Talking Openly About Death

Nyatanga, Brian (2010) Talking Openly About Death. International Journal of Palliative Nursing, 16 (6). p. 263. ISSN 1357-6321

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Although around half a million people die in England each year, most deaths occur away from their homes and in institutions with ‘strangers’ caring for them. Admittedly, a few die in their own homes, however, this number is not high enough to claim that as a society we are becoming more familiar with death. The reality is that as a society we do not openly discuss death (Department of Health (DH), 2008). We recognize that this very point is the central message in the second chapter of the End of Life Care Strategy (DH, 2008). Two years on, we have seen the creation of Dying Matters as a coalition working to support changing knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards death, dying and bereavement. One of the intended outcomes is that we can all treat living, and dying, as natural normal processes. For health professionals, open discussions would ensure caring is more honest in terms of what treatment can be realistically offered, while openly discussing with patients when death is likely to occur. It is also possible that open discussion about death may lead to an improved bereavement profile for relatives. Although progress to date is welcome, more could be done to expedite the process. Among the many aspects of our attitudes that may need reviewing, the continued use of euphemisms for death must be a priority. Continued use of euphemisms in death and dying suggests a psychological ploy to deflect death into the subconscious, by generating ‘labels’ that are perceived in themselves as acceptably palatable to talk about. For example, ‘he passed away’ would be more acceptable ‘than he is dead’. Euphemisms may carry an occasional tendency to confuse the meaning inherent in such statements as ‘I am afraid we lost him yesterday’.

Item Type: Article
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Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: attitude to death, attitude to health, health personnel attitude, human, interpersonal communication, mass medium, religion, semantics,
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Nursing and Midwifery
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Depositing User: Brian Nyatanga
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2018 13:52
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:23

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