Seven Keys to a Good Death

If you ask people on the street how they want to leave their life on this planet, they undoubtedly will say something to the effect that they want to “die a good death.” Dying a good death begs of the question of what is meant by passing on in that manner. What is meant by passing on through a good death? The reality is that people who work with those at the end of their lives have comprised a list of seven keys to a good death. We discuss these keys to a good death with you today:

  • Experience the least amount of pain
  • Recognize and try to resolve interpersonal issues
  • Satisfy any remaining wishes (to the extent possible)
  • Review life to find meaning
  • Hand control over to a trusted person
  • Protect self from needless procedures
  • Decide how alert and social you want to be 

Least Amount of Pain

The first of the seven keys to a good death involves optimal pain management. In this day and age, there are medications that can manage nearly all physical pain experienced by most people as they go through the dying process. 

Bear in mind that people can also experience spiritual, emotional, and psycho-social pain on their deathbeds. Tactics need to be considered to aid in assisting these types of pain whenever possible as well. 

Interpersonal Issues

Unresolved issues with people in your life can still exist when your end comes. A surer way of having a good death is to attempt to resolve these interpersonal issues whenever and as much as possible. (Interpersonal issues tend to be the primary causes of psycho-social and emotional pain that might plague a person when dying.)

Greater Good magazine, a publication of the University of California at Berkeley, sets forth four simply proclamations that can be used as part of addressing remaining interpersonal issues at the time of death:

  • I love you
  • Thank you
  • I forgive you
  • Please forgive me

Remaining Wishes

Some people do have some end of life wishes that they would like to see fulfilled before they pass on. For example, they may want to see a child’s planned wedding take place. They may want to see a grandchild graduate.

This key to a good death is to assist a person in attempting to see that wish fulfilled. Having said that, it is important to avoid misappropriating a person’s proverbial dying wish as their own. In other words, perhaps a person heading towards the end really doesn’t care about a particular upcoming event. It is not appropriate to turn something a dying individual really doesn’t care about into some sort of end of life wish on behalf of the person. 

Review Life

Many people do want to recognize things in their own lives that brough meaning at the time of their passing. In many cases, when it comes to an end of life review of life the focus is on people who have been a part of such an individual’s time on Earth – who they have loved and who have loved them.

There are also individuals who do find satisfaction in some of the things they did during their live. This can particularly be true of things that have had some type of impact on others. 

Handover Control

Many people do have a medical directive and a power of attorney for healthcare. These legal instruments address the legal issues associated with end of life issues. For example, these instruments aid in ascertaining what type of life maintaining equipment, procedures, or treatments can or cannot be used to sustain that individual’s life.

Handing over control also means identifying a person who will ensure that person’s more personal dying wishes are met. These included such matters as where a person will spend the end of his or her life, who will be present during this time, and so forth. 

Protect Yourself From Needless Procedures

We mentioned a medical directive and a power of attorney for healthcare a moment ago. These instruments are important aspects of protecting yourself from needless procedures near the end of life. Berkeley University has enumerated why you need to protect yourself from needless procedures and treatments at the end of life:

Emergency rooms, ICU’s, and 911 are set up to preserve life and are not typically supportive of the conditions for a good death. If a person is suffering tremendously, there may be cause to get emergency help; but for most situations, when you throw a person into the larger healthcare system, the prevention of death becomes the imperative, and that can serve to increase suffering for the dying person. One has to be very persistent and clear to avoid procedures that are unwanted—to insist on palliative or hospice care, instead. It can help to have an advanced directive or a “physician-orders for life sustaining treatment” in writing and communicated to loved ones; but often a person also needs a vocal advocate—a family member, friend, or volunteer caregiver.

Level of Sociability and Alertness

The final of the seven keys to a good death involve level of sociability and level of alertness you desire at the end of your life. Some people want people around. Others want isolation. Some people want to be as alert as possible during the end of life. Others want to sleep as much as possible.

You need to decide how you want to spend your final days in this regard. People around you or solitude. Alertness or slumber. Bear in mind that the choice is your own and only yours. No one else is entitled to make these decisions for you.

By paying heed to the seven keys to a good death, and by implementing them as much as possible, you place yourself in the best possible position do pass from this Earth in the immediate manner desired. You are wise to ensure people close to you understand what your desires are in regard to dying a good death, so that your wishes will be carried out.