In the media: BBC2 Horizon

24th January 2019

The Cicely Saunders Institute and St Christopher’s Hospice have been featured in BBC2 Horizon programme “We Need to Talk About Death” (Wednesday 23 January 2019, 9 pm).  The programme is available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days here:

The programme was presented by anaesthetist and intensive care physician Dr Kevin Fong and featured patients, healthcare professionals and researchers from The Cicely Saunders Institute, St Christopher’s Hospice and Velindre NHS Trust.

In the film Dr Fong looks at the moral questions about death that face not just the medical profession, but everyone in society. How we die is something that all of us must face, but we avoid talking about it. Modern medicine is focused on saving lives. Amazing technical advances have increased doctors’ ability to treat a wide range of life-threatening diseases, meaning many more people live longer lives. Life expectancy has surged, and we regard death as something to be battled. It is common for the medical system to throw everything into treating patients right to the very end.  But in our attempts to defeat death are we over-medicalising death and the final years of life instead of providing better palliative care that would result in a better quality of life? Is it time to learn how to die a better death? Dr Fong talked to medical professionals who are at the heart of these dilemmas, as well as people who are facing up to the question of how to die a better death.

The film included interviews with Dr Katherine Sleeman, NIHR Clinician Scientist at the Cicely Saunders Institute who spoke about latest research which shows early palliative care offered alongside curative treatment gives both a better quality of life and longer survival.  Dr Sleeman also highlighted the rapid escalation in predicted need for palliative care in the next 20 years, latest research about patients’ preferences, and how UK medical training programmes for doctors and nurses must include more training in palliative and end of life care.  The latest health economics research demonstrates that palliative care is highly cost-effective, and delivers  better lives for patients, with lower overall cost to the healthcare system.