What is a good death: Can science and medicine tell us?

In his bestselling book, Being Mortal, surgeon and Reith lecturer Atul Gawande queried whether his profession had become so fixated on attempting to ‘stave off death’ that it had ‘no idea when to stop’ for terminally ill patients who may not benefit from expensive and intrusive end-of-life treatments. Earlier this year, Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, provoked heated discussion by suggesting cancer represented ‘the best death’ for most patients.  Nevertheless, the strength of opposition to assisted dying indicates that for many a ‘good death’ represents more than avoiding suffering.  How should we decide whether a particular death is good – or indeed, bad?  What becomes of our mortality and our morality when death becomes a legitimate option?

Battle of Ideas session details