The Importance of Talking About Death

You might have already seen that my very exciting news last week was that I was approached by a BBC Radio producer to appear on a Radio 1xtra show about death on Sunday night. I was incredibly apprehensive but knew it was too good of an opportunity to refuse so anxiously I went along. Originally, crossed wires meant I was on air a lot longer than I thought I would be, I was not the only guest as I thought and that it was broadcast live! At first I thought it was recorded to be broadcast later and that the documentary parts of the show were the main bulk of it. As terrifying as it was, the team there made me feel really relaxed and even though I sound nervous at the start and at one point my mic wasn’t switched on and I was talking, I really enjoyed the whole experience! If you would like to listen, it is available online here. We discuss how Death Cafe’s work, how they help people and what is involved.

The host Reece Parkinson, the other guest Angel and myself in the studio after the show.

This week I have managed to finally sort out my workspace at home and I’m really pleased with the result. I needed an area where I could work on my course and also any other computer work I needed to do, but somewhere quiet and where I could concentrate. Luckily one of the reasons we bought our house was a really neat little feature of a mezzanine loft extension area which I’ve now decked out with a place to relax and folding desk with chair for my work. There’s even a little heater for when it’s cold and space for all my folders and books. I’m so chuffed and happy it’s completed before I start my course at the end of February.

My little safe space to retreat to!

Wednesday evening there were two important death related shows that I can thoroughly recommend. On BBC Radio 4 at 8pm, We Need To Talk About Death about the role of the Coroner in unexpected deaths that a Death Cafe attendee pointed me in the direction of. This is a topic that was recently raised at our Death Cafe and something I think requires a greater clarity for people. Then at 9pm on BBC 2 a Horizon programme called We Need To Talk About Death with Dr. Kevin Fong which mainly explored the relationship between palliative care and traditional medicinal care for patients nearing the end of their life. I can thoroughly recommend both, the first because I learnt a bit more about how families may feel for our community cases that we receive, and the latter because I never knew how palliative care worked or how it is used so effectively. I also found the hospice scenes absolutely fascinating. Have a listen/watch and let me know what you think. They can be found on BBC Sounds and IPlayer respectively.

An interesting radio show highlighting the emotional reaction and the Coronial reaction to sudden deaths.

A brilliant documentary about the importance of planning and thinking about the kinds of care we receive towards the end of our lives.

Finally, this week I have been starting to make plans for Dying Matters Week 2019! This year it runs between the 13th-19th May and I’ve been planning some ideas for myself and discussing some potential activities at work at the hospital. I’m hoping to make the most of the week and get everyone I know talking and thinking about death, I’ll use any excuse really. If you would like to get involved in any way please let me know.

MG x

A Sunny Day in London Town (Part One)

Well in case you didn’t know, we have had some very Summer-esque weather here the past couple of days. I feel that I have fully immersed myself in this by having drunk cider in a beer garden and got my first sting of sunburn that I always do as a pale, basement dweller.

Friday I had the absolute pleasure of spending a day at the AAPT (Association of Anatomical Pathology Technologists) head office in the city. This did mean getting on the tube in rush hour, but it also meant getting to spend some time with some great people. I was lucky to have secured a place on the Consent Training Day 2018 where professionals from all across the specialism from midwives and APTs to pathologists got together to learn about post-mortem consent.

The structure of the day was a talk from Lisa Carter, a representative of the HTA, regarding the regulation of consent, another talk from a member of the AAPT, Martin Goddard, around the different types of consent and how they are given/taken and then an afternoon in a workshop group discussing scenarios. I took my seat second row from the front (my eyesight is not the best) and studiously took notes the whole day determined to get out of the sessions what I could.

Consent is something that is hugely important in our role. Our most common type of post-mortem is a Coronial one where it has been ordered by the Coroner. This is unavoidable and consent is not required from the deceased prior to death or from their relatives. However, in the case of research or for other interests there are post-mortems undertaken and for these full consent must be granted. This consent process is not complicated but is thorough and there are a number of guidelines around how best to approach and record. I won’t go into heaps of detail here but it is a fascinating and intricate process to ensure that the family receives the best for their relative and nothing happens they wouldn’t want it to. This particularly focuses on the retention of any tissue and what it is used for, ensuring that nothing is kept unknowingly or for purposes unknown.

Unfortunately this has come off the back of a few ‘scandals’ that occurred where tissues or deceased were kept without the knowledge of the relatives. This led to legislation being passed to ensure this could not happen again and this is excellent for securing trust back in institutes. It would seem the media loves a mortuary scandal and the reporting of it, even recently. It’s a shame when the good work of the institutes are not highlighted as often!

I had a brilliant day at the course and saw a few people I had previously met and also met some new people which is great. So pleased to be a part of this and hope I can help with the progression the profession continues to have.

Look out for another post later today as I took a wander through the city afterwards, and between leaving training and ending up in a beer garden I had a little adventure I’d like to share!

Thank you for reading and if you have any questions please do get in touch!

MG x

At Home With The Dead

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Hope you’re having a good day no matter what, I’m still cheery even though my other half left my card and present at work. Maybe I’m cheery because Pancake Day is more my thing and yesterday I ate a lot of pancakes. Standard. Earlier this week I was pointed in the direction of this video available on BBC News, where a man explains why he kept his wife at home for 6 days after she died rather than admit her to a mortuary. He explains that for 6 days it allowed his family to grieve and deal with their bereavement in their own way even though such an act is deemed controversial it would appear.It begs me to ask myself if I would keep a loved one at home after they had died. Did you even know this was an option? I did feel that this video’s purpose was partly to just say that this was a thing you can do. As long as the death is registered then this is perfectly legal. In fact, for a long time and within living memory it was tradition to have your family member stay at home until the funeral. It allowed family members to visit and a period of mourning to be in place. It’s also very commonplace in a number of other cultures around the world, not as peculiar as you might believe then. I like the fact this man in Derbyshire decided that keeping his wife at home was what he wanted to do, for him and his family. I’ve read a few times that by seeing a loved one while grieving can help you come to terms with your loss. I understand the thought process behind this and it’s an aspect I’d definitely like to look into further. He is quoted as wanting to help change attitudes towards death and I’m all for anything which progresses forward in this way.

For now, let me know your thoughts on this because I’d love to discuss further and hear your viewpoints. I’d like to point out I had my own reservations as well as positives, simply through what changes would happen in the body six days after death and whether I would want to see a loved one in those stages of decomposition. I’m not certain what would happen or what might have been in place to prevent it but the chance there would be some kind of changes is very high I would imagine. If you have any thoughts you’d like to share please do get in touch via social media or the comments below.

Hope you are having a great week and thank you for reading!

MG x

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