We want to open a debate and facilitate thinking about our end-of-life choices. The website “Thinkaboutdeath.org” may help you in this. Here you will find answers to many of the questions that you may wish to ask in connection with our project. If you have any other questions, send us a message or an e-mail and we will respond to the best of our ability.
If you are currently dealing with an emergency or if you need urgent help caring for a dying friend or relative, we recommend contacting professionals. This website does not give specific advice but rather acts as a space to think about dying, death and bereavement.
Thinking about death and dying is difficult and there are many ways to approach this topic; this website offers just one of the pathways you may take. We hope that the information on this website will help you irrespective of how you decide to use it. We do not subscribe to the view that thinking about your end-of-life choices is disrespectful, cynical or inconsiderate. In our opinion, it is much better both for us and for our families and friends to be realistic about what to expect at the end of our lives, and to try to remain self-reliant and content until our last moments. This is why we would like you to think about your own death and dying. Naturally, in contemplating these issues, you will soon encounter questions that we won’t discuss right away – who should take care of us, whether we would prefer to spend the end of our life at home or in hospital and so forth.
We plan weddings, the births of our children, our careers and retirement. But we forget to think about the end of our lives, even though an ending is such an essential part of the story that is our life. For most of us, the end is too far away to be worth worrying about. But just remember how long it has been since you have finished the elementary school. Soon, you will be looking back over your entire life.
We tend to think that dying is something horrible, something that we don’t wish to invite even in our thoughts. But it doesn’t work like that; quite the contrary. People who embrace the idea that they will die one day have a major advantage compared to those who try to deny the thought – they can prepare for the end before it comes. What we often fear in connection with dying is pain, loss of dignity and independence. But this is precisely what may come to pass when you leave your end-of-life choices and decisions to someone else, such as doctors or family members without ever telling them of your wishes. This is why it’s important to think about dying matters in advance and speak about your choices and preferences with your close ones. How should your relatives know your wishes when you yourself have never taken the time to think and speak about them? These may be fundamental issues such as “I don’t want to be kept alive artificially”, or more trivial matters such as “I don’t want sombre music at my funeral.”
When your life is affected by an incurable disease that shortens your lifespan and limits the diversity of what you can experience or do, you will find that you are faced with a choice between making use of all the procedures and treatments that our current medical science can offer, or utilizing only some of them. For most people, the choice is a balancing act between the courage to fight for every new day and the courage to let things run their course. In addition to finding that balance for yourself, it is equally important to let your family and friends know about your wishes and preferences. In countries that have a long tradition of contemplating the end-of-life care and wishes, people commonly decide in advance whether they would like to be put on life-support machines, or whether they would wish to be fed by tube provided this would prolong their lives by days or even weeks. We agree that this is quite a tough choice. And yet, while you read this text, doctors and family members of many patients in hospitals around the world are confronted with this very choice at this very moment without having the chance to ask the patient what they would prefer.
These are the most frequent questions you should think about:
Many countries have already adopted some laws and regulations about advance care planning which you can use as the legal background for your end of life wishes. However, there are different terms used in this field across the world so you will have to find out first what fits your country. You can ask directly your physician or Department of Health. Terms often used are for example advance directives, do-not-resuscitate orders, do-not-hospitalize orders, health care proxy or just advance care planning.
“Before I die, I would like to say goodbye to all my high-school friends who will still be alive at that time.” Do you find that morbid? To us, it sounds like a nice, legitimate wish of a dying person who wants to say their farewells and maybe even repair some old grievances. Fulfilling such a wish would make the person happier. But if they never tell anyone about it and don’t put together a list of the old schoolmates, the wish can never be fulfilled; because who knows all their parents’ or grandparents’ school friends and their common history?