What is a Good Death?

People have different views. MDMD believes individual choices should be respected.  Many people would agree that aspects of a good death include:

  • Being free from physical pain.
  • Dying in a place of their choosing – often at home rather than in hospital.
  • Being with close relatives or friends.
  • Just going to sleep peacefully and not waking up.
  • Dying without a prolonged period of old age dependency on others for basic needs such as feeding and personal care.
  • Dying before permanently losing fundamental mental capabilities such as knowing where we are, understanding what is happening to us, and being able to recognise and communicate with friends and close relatives.
  • Dying when they feel their lives are complete and they feel ready to die.
  • Dying without the fear that they may become trapped in an intolerable situation they can’t be released from, despite the best palliative care available.
  • Knowing that the people who are close to them are able to accept their dying.

From the MDMD perspective, a “good death”, for some people, means taking control of the manner and timing of their end, with professional guidance and assistance. Painlessly slipping into unconsciousness and death, without having to fight to stay alive as long as possible when quality of life has permanently diminished unacceptably.

The Dying Matters coalition was set up in 2009 by the National Council for Palliative Care, to promote public awareness of dying, death and bereavement, and in so doing to help people have a “good death”. While many of the “good death” criteria listed on their website are echoed in the items at the start of the list above, Dying Matters stops short of discussing some of the later criteria, the logical consequence of which is allowing people the option of legalised medically assisted dying.

If you have other good death criteria which you think are widely shared, please tell us.