Lynda Bellingham’s positive approach to death should encourage people to communicate
by Dr Jane Collins Chief Executive
This week we heard the very sad news that actress and TV presenter Lynda Bellingham died. Diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, Lynda recently announced that she had made the decision to stop her chemotherapy treatment and spend her final weeks with her family. She bravely remained in the public eye during her final weeks, sharing her love of life and her courageous acceptance that she was going to die. With many families facing a similar situation, it’s extremely positive for someone to share their experiences so publically. It’s widely considered that having open conversations about someone’s care and wishes can be very beneficial to both the person who is ill and their family.
As a nation it’s important for us to be more open about this subject so that people feel able to communicate their wishes before they die. In March this year we published our Difficult conversations report, which is based on in-depth conversations with terminally ill people and current and bereaved carers. The report explores key issues relating to conversations both within families and with health and social care professionals. Essentially the report found that a terminal diagnosis and any conversations based around death can often prove very difficult, whether between people and their carers, or with different professionals.
The importance of communicating
Many people shy away from talking about death and dying, which often results in people’s wishes being missed after death. Open communication about people’s final wishes, or how they wish to be cared for as they approach the end of their lives, is key to ensuring they achieve the death they want. If these conversations aren’t had, or aren’t clear, bereaved loved ones can often be left asking, could I have done more? But thanks to Lynda’s bravery, we hope more people facing a similar diagnosis will be spurred to be more open about their wishes, not just with medical professionals but their families as well.