Archives for posts with tag: Fear

I listened to ‘How to Have a Good Death’ on BBC Radio 4 last night (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rvpq1). Hosted by Dr Kevin Foy, the programme aimed to explore how death, despite its universal certainty, is such a taboo subject, and as a result, discussions around dying tend to be avoided. The programme also specifically addressed the current controversial Liverpool Care of the Dying Pathway (LCP) and its implementation.

Contributors included Dr Kate Granger, who I have spoken about previously (https://sufferingandthearts.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/terminally-ill-doctor-to-tweet-from-her-deathbed/). Dr Granger is a junior doctor who has incurable cancer. She has broken with convention and chosen to openly and publicly (including on twitter) speak about her experience living, and dying, with terminal disease.

Recent years have seen a dramatic improvement in the care of the dying. As discussed on air, death is ‘complicated’ and requires its own specialty, Palliative Medicine. I have my own views on this, which I will come back to another time, but I do wonder whether we have over medicalised dying as a result of such specialisation…

Contributors also included the originators of the LCP. Whatever one’s views on the pathway, at the very least it serves as a platform from which issues around death and dying can be openly addressed and discussed, which potentially facilitates those affected having a say in their own dying process.

The prospect of death and the certainty of our mortality fills most people with fear. We tend to speak less about what we fear most, which epitomises how we deal with the subject of death and dying.

Which is why I welcome programmes such as ‘How to Have a Good Death’. I may not fully understand the concept of a ‘Good Death’, but I embrace opportunities that expose us to the taboo subject of mortality, and which challenge us to stop and consider our own dying, and even perhaps ultimately accepting it…

CQ

I am currently re-reading Sarah Bakewell’s Montaigne: How To Live (subtitled A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer), which has reminded me just what an accessible and enjoyable book this is.

For now, I am going to focus on one of the questions posed:

1. Q. How to live? A. Don’t worry about death

Early on in his life, Montaigne was obsessed by death, in fact he was so obsessed by the thought of losing his life that he was unable to enjoy life itself.

In his 30s, Montaigne experienced the loss of many of those close to him, including the deaths of his best friend, his father, his younger brother, and his first born child. All of these losses served to re-inforce the undeniable reality, but more so the fear, of death.

Montaigne had an epiphany when he was 36, following a riding accident. He recovered, but was utterly changed by the ‘near-dying’ experience. Thereafter, he lived his life differently:

‘If you don’t know how to die, don’t worry; Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do this job perfectly for you; don’t bother your head about it.’

This maxim – ‘Don’t worry about death’ – became Montaigne’s means of living, a rebirth of sorts where he could experience life without the constant shadow, and fear, of death.

CQ