What Is a "Good Death"?
Practical ways to help to ensure a "good death"
Poets, professors, priests, and plain folks all opine about what makes a "good death." In truth, deaths are nearly as unique as the lives that came before them -- shaped by the attitudes, physical conditions, medical treatments, and mix of people involved.
Still, many have pointed to a few common factors that can help a death seem good -- and even inspiring -- as opposed to frightening, sad, or tortuous. By most standards, a good death is one in which a person dies on his own terms, relatively free from pain, in a supported and dignified setting. Other things to consider:
Having affairs in order
Not everyone has the luxury of planning for death. But those who take the time and make the effort to think about their deaths during life and plan for some of the details of their final care and comfort are more apt to retain some control and say-so in their final months and days of life.
Legal specifics of such planning can include taking steps to get affairs in order by:
Having an estate plan, with a will, trust, or other arrangement that sets out who gets property and how it should be divided.
Specifying final medical care in an advance directive.
Controlling pain and discomfort
Most Americans say they would prefer to die at home, according to recent polls. Yet the reality is that three-quarters of the population dies in some sort of medical institution, many of them after spending time in an intensive care unit.
As life expectancies increase, more people are becoming proactive. A growing number of aging patients are choosing not to have life-prolonging treatments that might ultimately increase pain and suffering -- such as invasive surgery or dialysis -- and deciding instead to have comfort or palliative care through hospice in their final days.