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Categories: Death Society Social Science

Dying alone - is it all that bad?

Dying alone may actually not be as bad as we think, according to a leading professor at the University of Bath.

Professor Allan Kellehear, head of the Department of Social & Policy Sciences, will contradict popular opinion when he presents his latest paper at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Birmingham next week (5 October).

In the paper, Dying Old - and Preferably Alone, Professor Kellehear, explains how some people choose to die alone and it’s society that portrays it negatively.

Professor Kellehear, who is also a member of the University’s Centre for Death & Society, said: “Dying alone is different to dying lonely.

“We often see stories in the media about people being “left” to die alone resulting in questions  asking why this should be allowed to happen? But realistically some people choose to die this way.

Professor Allan Kellehear
Professor Allan Kellehear

“For some people dying alone is dignified and dying surrounded by machines is not dignified.

“Some would rather die at home alone, rather than put up with ‘interfering’ medical, health or community members that might expose them to greater risk of being placed into ‘an institution’.”

Professor Kellehear’s research was a review of existing research, comparing the coronial findings and interviews with family and neighbours of people found dead or dying alone with other research examining the views of the elderly about their end of life care preferences.

He found that the two bodies of related research did not tally with one another.

One per cent of all deaths in the UK each year are people who die alone amounting to around 1,000 people.

Professor Kellehear hopes that his research will introduce the idea into discussion and help to develop policies.

Contact: Myra Lee, University Press Office, 44 (0) 1225 385789

Source: The University of Bath

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