What is it about the verb “to die” and the word “death”? In recent weeks and months I find myself more and more distracted by the inability of our journalists, politicians, or anyone on the media, to state plainly that someone has died. They have, more often than not, ‘passed away’. I heard a DJ on Radio 2 do it earlier in the week and, this evening, I even heard the newsreader on BBC 5 Live refer to a ‘passing’ to avoid using the word, death.
We are tiptoeing around death. There seems to be a self-imposed ban, a moratorium, if you will, on the D-words. I don’t want to over-play it but is it related to our increasing need to cure every ill, our inability to tolerate any ailment? We can’t face our own mortality in an age of individualism. Death is a dirty word. I spent part of the afternoon re-reading a Belgian paper, which will be published this coming week in BJGP Open, that extends the debate around euthanasia and dementia. Belgium and the Netherlands are two countries who have already enacted legislation. Yet, how can we possibly have a sensible conversation in the UK about death and one’s right to choose, to exercise control, if we’re unable to even speak its name?