COLUMN: Only two things in life are certain - taxes and death

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It’s said that only two things in life are certain – taxes and death.

But whilst people will readily give you their views on income tax, they are often not as forthcoming when it comes to talking about death.

In fact it’s such a sensitive subject to deal with that many people often put off discussing their end of life wishes with their loved ones.

But it’s something we all need to think about, as a good death is as important as a good life.

About one per cent of the UK population dies every year, which in Doncaster’s case adds up to around 3,000 people. Each of those deaths will affect many more people in different ways.

Today is the start of this year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week and the theme is: ‘What can you do? It aims to get people more active in planning for dying and death and helping to support those who may need it in times of grief and bereavement, be they friends, family, or in your wider community.

It’s important because research by the organisers of the awareness week has revealed some interesting national statistics about our attitude towards talking about end of life. Some 64 per cent of us feel comfortable about discussing death with family and friends, compared to 50 per cent about sex, 82 per cent about politics, 78 per cent about money, 80 per cent about religion, and 85 per cent about immigration.

The same research found that we’re simply not taking enough action. Just:

• 35 per cent of adults have made a will.

• 30 per cent have let someone know their funeral wishes.

• 7 per cent have written down their wishes or preferences about the care they would want if they couldn’t make decisions.

• 25 per cent have asked a family member about their end of life wishes.

• 33 per cent have registered to be an organ donor.

The website www.dyingmatters.org is a useful resource if you need help with what to say, how to say it and where to find help.

As a doctor I routinely care for patients who are moving towards the end of their life so I know how important it is to make your wishes known, particularly about where you would like to die.

Historically, over half of the 3,000 deaths in Doncaster each year have occurred in hospital because appropriate specialist community services have not been available to care for people.

This has now changed, we have put extra investment into end of life care and more local people are now choosing to die at home with the care and support they and their family need.

So my plea this week is to get more Doncaster people talking about end of life issues. Actively planning for a good death can improve the quality of life and make the experience much easier for those involved and their families and friends.