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David Bowie’s Death Opens the Door for Palliative Care Discussions

Who do you want to hold your hand when you take your last breath? What do you want to do with your remaining time? Thinking about those final moments may be taboo for some, but David Bowie’s death has opened the door for many people – demonstrating to those who are facing the end of their lives what can be accomplished in their time left.

Even as a rock star and beloved celebrity, David Bowie managed to keep his 18-month battle with cancer private, taking his final breaths surrounded by friends, family and loved ones. While everyone in the world was shocked to hear of his passing, Bowie had been preparing for his death and made every moment count. Only days before he died, Bowie released a new album and music video, which has not only topped both U.K. and U.S album charts but also touched the life of Dr. Mark Taubert, a National Health Service palliative care consultant.

In his blog on the British Medical Journal’s website, Dr. Taubert explains how David Bowie’s death was as influential and meaningful as his music, particularly his new album. He says,

“For me, the fact that your gentle death at home coincided so closely with the release of your album, with its good-bye message, in my mind is unlikely to be coincidence. All of this was carefully planned to become a work of death art.”

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As a palliative care doctor, Dr. Taubert was profoundly affected by what Bowie did facing the final moments of his life.

“Many people I talk to as part of my job think that death predominantly happens in hospitals, in very clinical settings, but I presume you chose home and planned this in some detail” writes Taubert. “This is one of our aims in palliative care, and your ability to achieve this may mean that others will see it as an option they would like fulfilled.”

While David Bowie’s death is sad for his fans, we at Samaritan hope it sparks conversations among families about advance care planning. A good starting point is our simple Five Wishes tool that allows users to share their thoughts on end-of-life decisions.

Samaritan has programs in palliative medicine, which focuses on pain and symptom relief suitable for any state of illness and hospice care, which provides comprehensive care for those with advanced illnesses.

Click here to read Dr. Taubert’s entire blog on David Bowie.