Avoidance and Struggle, our attitude towards death


Avoidance and Struggle, our attitude towards death

Robrecht De Schreye


In Belgium and other Western countries, people with life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, COPD or Alzheimer's disease are treated very aggressively. People near the end of life receive lots of burdensome treatment and little palliative care.

At the same time, success of aggressive treatments is very limited. There currently is no cure for any of these diseases. Death can be delayed at best, but in many cases even that is impossible.

As a society, we put major effort in this aggressive, often futile care.

The motivation for this seems two-fold: on the one hand, health care is a powerful industry that wants to produce and sell as much treatment and medication as possible. Doctors are paid to treat us, not to do nothing.

On the other hand, we do not like to talk about death and dying. When we talk about incurable diseases, we speak in terms of fighting and struggle. When fighting is no longer an option, we often don't speak at all.


We argue it would be more appropriate if in some cases, we would accept death and talk about it, rather than fighting a painful fight.