How should we handle death?

The Lancet Commission on the Value of Death is an interdisciplinary team of experts in healthcare, economics, philosophy, theology and community work, alongside community activists. In a report published recently  the Commission has called for a worldwide change of attitudes towards death.

“While many people are overtreated in hospitals with families and communities relegated to the margins, still more remain undertreated, dying of preventable conditions and without access to basic pain relief,” the report opens.

This has been exacerbated by COVID-19. “People have died the ultimate medicalised deaths, often alone but for masked staff in hospitals and intensive care units, unable to communicate with family except electronically,” the report reads.

The researchers outline five principles to improve the value and process of death:

  1. Death, dying and grieving must be made more equitable: all people should be able to lead healthier lives and die more comfortable deaths.
  2. The relational and spiritual process of death must be recognised in addition to the medical event, to allow for better care.
  3. Families and wider community members should be more heavily involved in caring for the dying, alongside professionals.
  4. Public conversations and debate about death and grief should be encouraged.
  5. Death should be recognised as having value.

Read full report