Dying Matters - It’s time to talk!

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It’s time to talk!   

We all know death is inevitable. A harsh reality but one nonetheless. According to a study made in 2021 by Pew Research Center, nearly three quarters of U.S. adults have expressed a belief in the afterlife, meaning they have considered what happens when we die. There are TV shows, movies, books and songs all about dying and losing someone we love. Thousands upon thousands of news articles are written every day around the world to report death.  

So then why do we find it difficult to talk about dying?  

Talking about dying, death and bereavement is rarely a comfortable conversation. It stirs up emotions we would normally avoid like feeling awkward, worried and concerned about saying the “right” thing. But here’s where irony comes into it - by not talking about death we could be putting our lives in danger!  

In August 2018, Dr. Ron Naito, an internist in Portland, Oregon, was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer but learned his diagnosis in a way no patient should. Naito’s first physician, a specialist he’d known for 10 years, refused to acknowledge Naito’s sky-high blood test results that showed unmistakable signs of advanced cancer. “He simply didn’t want to tell me,” Naito said.  

A second specialist performed a tumor biopsy, and then discussed the results with a medical student outside the open door of an exam room where Naito waited.  

The result is that dying patients are often ill-informed. A 2016 study found that just 5 percent of cancer patients accurately understood their prognoses well enough to make informed decisions about their care.” JoNel Aleccia, Kaiser Health News.  

When professionals avoid conversation or overwhelm patients with medical jargon, it encourages the narrative that talking about death is a taboo and we should shy away from it, even in a professional setting.  

The truth is, talking about death provides comfort and relief when we are struggling to understand our emotions. By opening up it can bring us closer together because we are able to share feelings of hope and fear and appreciate that we do not have to feel alone in our final hour.   

Partner Plus Media is working on a campaign that promotes healthy conversations surrounding death. We want to break the stigma, challenge preconceptions and normalize public openness about dying. We aim to share stories about our own experiences and talk to organizations within the end-of-life community about how we can work together to shatter any shame that is associated with death. 

So, again, it’s time to talk!