‘Just say death!’ Plays teach healthcare workers about end-of-life care

Seth Goodburn seemed fit and well until two weeks before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died just 33 days after diagnosis, spending much of that short time in hospital. In the emotional whirlwind of coping with the poor prognosis his wife, Lesley, felt their hopes for Seth’s end-of-life care were sidelined by medical professionals trying to do their job.

“The NHS focuses on the medicine and trying to fix people even when that’s not possible,” she says. “A lot of the conversations and decisions that we might have made were overshadowed by dealing with what was the next medical treatment and intervention.”

There is an ongoing conversation in the medical profession about how to care for terminally ill patients, given that the profession’s instinct is to preserve life. The issue is just one of many being address by Brian Daniels, a playwright commissioned by the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) to tell stories such as Goodburn’s through plays, and help educate healthcare professionals about patients and families’ experiences of end-of-life care.

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