Published on: April 15, 2012

Since it was published on February 1 an article in the UK Guardian headlined “Top five regrets of the dying” has consistently been among the top 10 most viewed Life and Style section articles. In fact, for a long period of time, that article was the #1 most read.

The article is based on a blog by a palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, called Inspiration and Chai. Having nursed many patients through their last days, she was able to summarize the five most common regrets they experienced, which were as follows:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier

What is truly striking here is the immense popularity of this article. The UK Guardian tells us that the Life and Style section of the paper gets nearly three million (2.97) unique visitors a month. Clearly, it was read and discussed in many households across Britain and around the world.

This should give those of us in the healthcare profession great hope, and also a certain amount of pause. Many physicians, nurses, and social workers work from the basic assumption that the average person doesn’t want to hear anything about death. That thinking or talking about death is too frightening for them. But perhaps this assumption is wrong.

Could it be that doctors are more afraid to think and talk about death than the layman? Many readers of the UK Guardian appear ready and willing to consider their lives in light of the inevitable end that will arrive. They may even want to take steps to actively plan for their own death. So perhaps it is our own discomfort with raising the subject that needs to be addressed. Here’s hoping this opens the way to more, and more honest and direct, conversation about death.

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