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"Definition of a Good Death or an Appropriate Death"


Updated: November 9, 2006

There is no single definition of what constitutes a good death. The definition of a good death will vary for each patient.

In 1997 The Institute of Medicine (IOM) defined a good death as:

    A decent or good death is one that is: free from avoidable distress and suffering for patients, families, and caregivers; in general accord with patients' families' wishes; and reasonably consistent with clinical, cultural, and ethical standards.

Factors important for a good death include:

  • Control of symptoms
  • Preparation for death
  • Opportunity for closure or "sense of completion" of the life
  • Good relationship with healthcare professionals

A central concept to a 'good' death is one that allows a person to die on his or her own terms relatively pain free with dignity.

An appropriate death is often considered to be one that occurs naturally and in old age, one that follows the natural order of things e.g older members die before younger ones.

Perhaps the best definition an appropriate death is a death that someone might chose for him or herself if he/she had the choice.

Also known as: Appropriate death, desired death, dignified death

DeSpelder LA. Strickland AL. 2005. The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying. 6th Ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw Hill.
Institute of Medicine. Approaching Death: Improving Care at the End of Life. Washington: DC: National Academy Press, 1997.
Steinhauser KE, Christakis NA, Clipp EC, McNeilly M, McIntyre L, Tulsky JA. Factors considered important at the end of life by patients, family, physicians, and other care providers. JAMA 2000;284: 2476-82.
Corr CA. Nabe CM. Corr DM. 2003. Death and Dying Life and Living. 4th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning Publishing Co.

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