Thanks in part to a greater awareness of good hygiene, extensive health programmes, and advancements in the medical field, people are now living much longer lives.
For many, death is no longer regarded as a natural phenomenon. Instead, it is often seen as a failure of medicine and care - a brutal thief of time, and therefore, shunned and not discussed.
Yet, death is inevitable, and a person at death's door requires the highest level of empathy (to be distinguished from sympathy).
This is vital to allow the person to "pass on" with dignity.
What does "preserving the dignity of a dying person" mean?
In a 2002 study of terminally-ill cancer patients, researchers concluded that dignity-conserving care depends not only on how patients are treated, but also how they are regarded (ie when patients know they are seen as being worthy of honour and respect by those who provide care to them). When this situation exists, dignity is more likely to be preserved.
It demonstrates that it is not just the physical care of a patient that is important during end-of-life scenarios, but also mental and emotional well-being.
For example, having efficient domestic help for an aged or sick parent at home is no substitute for family members offering kind words and loving gestures each day.