Blog: What is a Good Death?

What is a good death?

A good death means something different to everyone. Some people may relish in the sound of grandchildren running around their home, filling it with life and laughter, whereas some may prefer the peace, quiet and support of a hospice. For others, it could mean refusing treatment or putting a DNACPR in place.

A good death is personal to the individual.

How can you achieve a good death?

There’s a lot of options available to suit your personal needs. These are some of the common things that contribute to the idea of a ‘good death’:

Medical affairs

Having an Advanced Care Plan in place and specifying your final medical care decisions, as well as considering ways to control pain and discomfort, can ensure your end of life care happens on your own terms. It also allows for dignity to remain intact, whatever that looks like to you. Think about your personal care preferences and document these via your ACP.

Also thinking about who you want to be cared for by, for example a doctor, nurses, home carers or your family and friends. You have the choice of where you want to be in your final days, this may be at home, in a care home, in a hospice or hospital.

Legal affairs

There are things you can have in place, such as an up to date will, that reduces the amount of stress at the end of your life and ensures your estate is distributed in the way you want it to be. However, only 38% of people in the UK have written a will.[1]

Appointing a Power of Attorney for health and finance also ensures that your wishes and decisions are carried out by someone you trust. Find out more about Power of Attorney here.

Funeral wishes

Thinking about your funeral can take some of the pressures of your family or relatives. There’s a lot of choice for what your funeral can look like nowadays – just have a look online and you’ll be astounded at some of the wonderfully wacky conceptions available! Do you want a traditional funeral, memorial, or cremation? Or perhaps you will choose to not have one at all. You can tell a loved one your funeral wishes or write them down. It is also possible to organise your own funeral; this ensures the financial pressures aren’t passed onto your family.

Favourite activities and objects

Thinking about what activities, experiences or objects would be most pleasing and comforting in your final days is important. This might be listening to a favourite artist or album, reading a favourite book, enjoying good food and drink. It might also mean being surrounded by particular photographs or a vase of flowers. As well as, thinking about who you would like to see in your final days. 

Prepare emotionally

Along with the practical matters of having one’s affairs in order, it’s equally important to prepare for death emotionally. Spending time with your loved ones toward the end of life can help with this. Ira Byock’s The Four Things That Matter Most are often quoted in the context of achieving a good death. Byock states a dying person has a need to express four thoughts the end of life:

1.   I love you

2.   Thank you

3.   I forgive you

4.   Forgive me


Religion or spirituality can also help people find strength and meaning during their final moments. It is important to think about your preferred spiritual or religious beliefs and underpinnings, and how you want these incorporated into your last days. Again, if you feel able, it is best to document and communicate your wishes.

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye to your family, friends and pets can be difficult for both you and your loved ones. The finality of it can be overwhelming. However, many say that once this is done a sense of peace prevails.

Your death is just that – yours. You can plan and prepare for it, in any way you wish to. You have the best chance of achieving a good death when you plan, prepare and are supported to make decisions. This might mean hard conversations or ensuring you have an up to date will in place. In the way that we plan for everything else in life, you can’t just hope for the best. Friends at the End are here to support you with any or all of these choices, be it a listening ear or more practical help, get in touch when you feel ready.

Want more?

Follow Friends at the End on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up with our latest news. Find out more about our work here.


A Busy Year for Friends at the End!

This has been an exciting and incredibly busy year for Friends at the End, our first year operating as a SCIO! After 20 years as a voluntary society, we received our charitable status in November 2018. This wouldn’t have been possible without all of our trustees, staff, members and supporters – we are very grateful for your support.  

Here is a roundup of some of the things we did during 2019:

Cross-Party Group

We continued our sponsorship of the Cross-Party Group on End of Life Choices in the Scottish Parliament by providing the secretariat for the meetings and arranging events/speakers. We had many interesting speakers including Community Pharmacy Scotland; Professor Ben Colburn, a political philosopher from Glasgow University; Dr Ellen Wiebe, an assisted dying provider from Canada and Cambridge academic, Dr Mehrunisha Suleman, also joined us to present a talk on her research into Muslim perspectives on end of life care.

Phil Newby Case

In July we financially supported a new legal challenge, launched by Phil Newby, to change assisted dying laws for those with long-term degenerative conditions. In November Phil lost his case in the High Court but we will continue to support Phil and his legal team. You can find out more about the case here.


We continued to grow our membership during the year. Thank you to all our new and current members for supporting the organisation. During 2020 and beyond we hope to grow and expand our membership, as well as local group meetings. 

You can find out about becoming a member here.


A popular feature of our work involves workshops concerning issues like welfare, powers of attorney, advance directives and anticipatory care plans. At our AGM Professor Celia Kitzinger of Advance Decisions Assistance (ADA) ran an Advance Directive workshop. Participants were able to draft or update their advance directives and had the opportunity to consider how they wish to manage their own end of life with professional support on hand.

Professor Jocelyn Downie: Law in Canada

We hosted a lunch and talk in November with Professor Jocelyn Downie, at the Scottish Parliament. Following the successful change in law in Canada, Professor Downie reached out to us. She holds the James Palmer Chair in Public Policy and Law at Dalhousie University; she is also the author of numerous studies on end of life law and policy.

These are just some of the events and work that we have done this year and we have another busy year planned for 2020. There’s a pastoral care conference scheduled; hosting the RTD Europe meeting in June and more work with the Cross-Party Group and MSPs. We are also lucky to have great working relationships with our partners Dignity in Dying and Humanist Society Scotland and look forward to working with them in 2020 on prospects for a new Bill. We will also be thinking about how we can better support our members, so we hope to have your continued support in the new year.

Want to keep up with our latest news?

Follow Friends at the End on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see what we are doing during 2020.

You can also make a donation to Friends at the End, helping us to continue our work and bring about a change in the law. More information is available here.

A Talk by Dr Ellen Wiebe: Film Now Available

 Dr Ellen Wiebe is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia.

She is one of the leading voices on assisted dying in Canada and visited the Freinds at the End AGM in November 2019 to talk about how the legalisation of assisted dying has impacted the country and how she works with assisted dying professionally.

As the founder of Hemlock Aid, Dr Wiebe supports both patients and medical professionals during the assisted dying process and shares her valuable insights into assisted dying from both of these perspectives.

You can view the short film here, please feel free to share this with friends, family and colleagues.

A Talk by Dr Ellen Wiebe