A good death

It' s a taboo topic and yet, as Dr Trisha Greenhalgh says,

it' s something we' ve all got to face

How would you like to die? In your sleep at the age of about 80 after a good round of golf and a pink gin, perhaps? Unfortunately, most of us, while not actually conscious at the moment of death, will be acutely aware in our last days or weeks that we are dying.

Scary, isn' t it? Even though death is life' s only certainty, we block it off and fail to plan for it. Yet the key to pulling off any difficult project is meticulous preparation and ensuring you' re properly equipped on the day. As Montaigne put it, ' Your life' s continual task is to build your death' .

If you want a checklist, try this. First, get a rough idea of how long you' ve got. On average, a healthy woman who is now in mid adulthood can expect to live to about 80 and a man to about 76. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes (especially if inadequately treated), irregular heart rate, smoking, excess alcohol, lack of exercise and a junk food diet all stack the odds against you. Check out the would you want someone to pull the plug on your ventilator? What about if you already had terminal cancer, dementia, or a progressive and incurable muscle-wasting condition? Do you care who makes those decisions? If you want to set out what you personally would find acceptable, write an advance directive (living will) today. Avoid the multiplicity of American websites and try the excellent plain English one by MIND on www. mind. org. uk/ information/ factsheets/A/Advance_Directives.asp.

Putting your house in order

Third, settle your affairs. Sort out your life insurance, tell your spouse where your pension documents are, make a will, and so on. As accountants, you probably make your living advising clients on tasks such as these, but I' d make an evens bet you haven' t got your own paperwork in order.

Fourth, think who if anyone you are prepared to pass your organs on to. You could go under a bus tomorrow, potentially giving sight and kidneys to a total of four grateful recipients, a heart and/or lungs to a fifth, and a pancreas to someone else (to say nothing of the medical research they could do on the leftovers). Either you care deeply about being buried or cremated (by the way, let your next of kin know which) with all your bits intact, or you will feel that the more of you that can be recycled the better. If the latter, sign a donor card to save your relatives the anguish of second-guessing what you would have wanted. Like most important transactions in this world, you can now do it all online at www. nhsorgandonor.net/.

Fifth, think about what you' re expecting to meet the other end, and plan accordingly. As a lapsed Methodist, firming up on my own spiritual

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