Millions of people risking leaving it too late to discuss their dying wishes

Buckingham cemetery extension. 100602M-E032
Buckingham cemetery extension. 100602M-E032
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New research for the Dying Matters Coalition shows that the majority of people in Britain have not discussed or made any plans for when they die, and are risking not getting appropriate end of life care and making it harder for their families to deal with bereavement.

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) research released to coincide with Dying Matters Awareness Week (May 13-19) finds encouraging signs that older people are increasingly taking action to make their end of life wishes known but that most people are leaving it too late to face up to their own mortality. This is despite the fact that almost two-thirds of us have been bereaved in the last five years.

The study reveals that although 70 per cent of the public say they are comfortable talking about death, most of us haven’t done anything to discuss our end of life wishes or put plans in place:

l Only just over one in three people (35 per cent) have a will, down on 39 per cent in 2009 – with the impact of economic pressures being a possible cause of this decline.

l Fewer than a third of people (28 per cent) have registered as an organ donor or have a donor card – although the number of organ donations after death has risen by 50 per cent since 2008, more than 1,000 people on the transplant waiting list die each year (NHS Blood and Transplant figures).

l Only 11 per cent of people have written down their funeral wishes/made a funeral plan.

The research also reveals a major mismatch between where people want to die and current trends in terms of place of death.

Latest NHS figures show that more than half of us die in hospital. Yet, research shows that just seven per cent of us say we would prefer to die in hospital, compared with 67 per cent who would prefer to die at home.