What Does “a Good Death” Mean?
Avoiding the thought of the inevitability of death is pretty much standard fare for most humans. It’s said that American culture, in particular, has become increasingly death-phobic. Even so, if we were forced to contemplate the end, we’d surely all wish to die well. But what does that mean, exactly?
A new review of existing literature, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, asks what makes a "good death" according to those involved in the process. What do the dying and the soon-to-be bereaved consider to be a good death?
This is a question debated all the time in hospices and palliative care settings. Yet coming up with an elegant definition of a "good death" that fits all viewpoints is challenging. A few organizations have attempted to sum up the principles of dying well.
According to an Institute of Medicine report, a good death is: "Free from avoidable distress and suffering for patient, family and caregivers, in general accord with the patient's and family's wishes, and reasonably consistent with clinical, cultural and ethical standards."
That’s a mouthful, but it does cover a lot of bases.
Researchers from the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine decided to carry out a review of the existing literature to uncover what makes for a good death.
Their list includes (among other factors) dignity, family, religious or spiritual considerations, life completion and comfort with a specific dying process. Those circumstances would seem to come about as close as possible to making death feel like the natural event it certainly is.