Kirshbaum, Marilyn, Carey, Ian, Purcell, Brigid and Nash, Seamus (2011) Talking about dying and death: a focus group study to explore a local community perspective. Nursing Reports, 1 (1). e8. ISSN 2039-439X

There is a general perception held by health care practitioners based in hospices, palliative care services and general healthcare services that society is reluctant to talk about dying and death. Furthermore, this avoidance behaviour is observed, noted and expressed in national policy briefings as being detrimental to patient involvement in decision making, effective coping and preparation for death, organ donation, writing a will and the process of bereavement.
The main aim of the study was to explore the views of the general public on the broad subject of ‘Talking about Dying and Death’.
Design and methods
An interactive qualitative methodology using a constructivist approach enabled exploration of a wide range of views from a variable population from the general community (n=8). Data were collected within a focus group session led by a facilitator and assistant. Systematic and analytical coding of transcripts was undertaken.
Four overriding themes were identified: 1) Emotions, beliefs and behaviours, 2) Coping with adversity, 3) Difficulties, barriers and tensions and 4) Fostering a participative future.
Dying and death was articulated as an upsetting topic, and remains a taboo in this community in the United Kingdom, accompanied by a belief that talking will bring harm. Promotion of talking about dying and death was discussed in relation to the role of the local hospice and several suggestions were put forward.

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