Death discussions 'taboo' for many in UK, survey finds

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Discussing dying and making end of life plans remain taboo for many people across the UK, a survey suggests.

The poll of 2,000 adults for the Dying Matters Coalition of care organisations indicates that only 21% of people have discussed their end of life wishes.

Only a third said they had written a will and just 29% had let loved ones know of their funeral wishes.

The findings are being released at the start of the Dying Matters Coalition's annual awareness initiative.

The coalition was set up by the National Council for Palliative Care in 2009.

The chief executive of both organisations, Claire Henry, said: "Dying is one of life's few certainties, but many of us appear to be avoiding discussing it or in denial altogether.

"Talking more openly about dying and planning ahead is in everyone's interests."

'Fear of the unknown'

The survey also suggests about four fifths of the public believe people are uncomfortable discussing dying and death.

And 51% of respondents said they had not made their partner aware of their end of life wishes.

A separate poll of 1,000 family doctors found that, although the number of GPs discussing the issue with patients was increasing, a quarter had not initiated conversations about end of life wishes.

Professor Mayur Lakhani, chair of the coalition, said healthcare professionals and their patients needed to become "more comfortable" with the subject to ensure the "right care and support" was provided.

Meanwhile, Professor Tony Walter, director of a University of Bath centre devoted to the research of the social aspects of death, said: "Many of us do not experience a family member or close friend dying until we are into our mid-life.

"As a result, fear of the unknown means that people sometimes avoid those who are ill or dying, and do not feel able to support them."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Knew about death/wake/funeral/cemeteries since I was four and grandma died - way to early to experience it as it puts a damper on childhood and can skew attitudes about your personal future. On the other hand as adult told family what I wanted - no wake, cremation, ashes scattered - that a number of other family members have opted for same and their wishes were carried out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    After working in a nursery, a few children came to me asking about their family members death; why did it happen? where did they go? etc. I personally think that it is important for children to know that this is a natural part of life and its okay to be upset if they have lost a family member or even a pet. Children should be able to ask questions and not be afraid to receive the answers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    I think there needs to be enough consideration of death to say who get what and let people know if you want burned or buried. After that's sorted, it's morbid to dwell on what will happen one day in the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    You're alive now, and a long time dead, personally I think my time alive on this earth is better spent living rather than thinking about dying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Children should learn that death is natural, a part of the cycle of life. It's sad when someone you love dies, crying about it is acceptable, talking and remembering them is good.


Comments 5 of 11


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