Planning your own death

Don’t get too excited; this is not a how-to column on how to disappear off the radar or fake your own death for some questionable reason; it’s just really about getting you to think about a natural part of life (i.e. death), and what you might be able to do to smooth your passing when the time comes.

I took my unwell cat to the vet recently, and they wanted me to decide if he was, or was not, for resuscitation if he went downhill. I am increasingly asked questions around this topic by emergency physicians when I refer unwell patients to hospital, especially older ones.

When my mother discovered she was terminally ill some years back, one of her first tasks was to ensure her affairs were in order. The will was re-written to her satisfaction, and she nominated relatives as powers of attorney and enduring guardians. An advance care directive was completed, which outlined her spiritual beliefs, what degree of medical intervention she would be happy with and, if she became gravely unwell, the types of treatments she would like to refuse.

Mum even planned her own funeral – she picked the funeral director, the church, the minister, the eulogists and hymns, and helped me with the guest list. Then we went through her clothes: three piles – one for St Vinnies, one for family members if they liked, and a “miracle” pile, in case she got better. Alas, there was no miracle, but her send-off went without a hitch.

Not everyone is as comfortable about preparing for death as my mother was, but having the conversation with loved ones and putting thoughts and things in order has many benefits – it can strengthen emotional bonds, and reduce anxiety about what will happen to you and your possessions. It can assist health carers in providing more directed medical care and take of pressure off family at what is a fractious and difficult time. Talk to your doctor and family and provide them with a copy of your advance care plan.

NSW Health has information on advance care planning.



Dr Marie Healy is a GP with interests in aged and chronic care and health promotion. This advice is general in nature; please see your GP for specific health advice regarding your individual circumstances.

Reference: NPS Medicine Wise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *