2.1 Preparing for death
In the next activity, you will explore personal perspectives on the end-of-life and preparing for death and the extent to which they draw on these contemporary components of a good death.
Activity 2 Preparing for death
Watch these three extracts from a BBC documentary A Time to Live, which explored the perspectives of people who had received a terminal prognosis. Although the interviewees were not specifically asked about their views on a good death, their interviews nonetheless reveal some interesting perspectives on the issue. For this activity, you will watch excerpts from three people: Kevin, Anita and Jolene.
As you watch the films, click the drop-down tabs to indicate if you have heard examples from the interviews that map onto the components of a good death outlined by Borgstrom (2014) and Cottrell and Duggleby (2016). You have the option of ‘no’ and ‘not sure’ as well.
Transcript: Video 1 A Time to Live: Kevin
Transcript: Video 2 A Time to Live: Anita
Transcript: Video 3 A Time to Live: Jolene
The answers are collated here for comparison purposes:
Table 2 Example answers
|Contemporary Western features of a good death||Kevin||Anita||Jolene|
|awareness of dying (viewed as a positive)||yes||yes||no|
|preparedness (getting one’s affairs in order)||yes||yes||not sure|
|comfort||not sure||not sure||not sure|
|peacefulness and dignity||not sure||yes||not sure|
|presence of family and being in familiar surroundings||not sure||no||yes|
|personhood (a sense that an individual’s wishes and preferences have been accounted for)||not sure||yes||yes|
|timeliness – death at the ‘right’ time? A dying period that is predictable?||yes||not sure||no|
Now draft some writing about the films you have just watched. Answer the three questions below. Write one paragraph of about 100 words for each question.
1. What similarities did you identify between the three films?
2. What differences did you notice?
3. Did anything surprise you about these films?
A student wrote the following answers:
- I noticed that both Kevin and Anita valued that their diagnosis had given them time to get their affairs in order, and make preparations for their death. They both suggested that receiving a terminal diagnosis had enabled them to make the most of the life they have left. So the awareness of forthcoming death seemed to be a positive – perhaps even something quite transformational. Control over one’s destiny in the final stages of life seemed to be very important to all three people; they all seemed independent and headstrong, wanting to make decisions for themselves.
- Jolene’s interview was very different in tone to Kevin and Anita. Awareness of her forthcoming death did not seem to be a positive for Jolene, and she had no interest in getting her affairs in order. This seemed to be a waste of precious life for Jolene. She also expressed anger, sadness and frustration that the end of her life was near, and that she had been ‘robbed’ of more time. I think age played a big part in how people responded to news of their terminal prognosis. How can a good death apply to someone so young?
- I found Anita and Kevin’s interviews unexpectedly uplifting; I did not anticipate that before I watched them. I was perhaps a little surprised that the people on the film did not speak more about their forthcoming death, and how they envisaged this happening. Maybe people don’t want to talk about this when they know it’s coming? Perhaps it’s just too painful? I was also struck by the strong emotions in Jolene’s interview. How does that relate to ideas about a ‘good death’? It seemed that Jolene couldn’t see anything ‘good’ about her diagnosis, and I wondered what support there was for someone in her situation.
If you have been affected by the issues in these videos, you can call firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch. The Motor Neurone Disease Association also provides support to people affected by motor neurone disease in England, Wales and NI - 03457 626262 or visit The Motor Neurone Disease Associationfree of charge on 0808 808 00 00. You can also call Samaritans free from any phone on 116 123 (it will not appear on your phone bill), email