The Week in Death 15/10/18

The Week in Death

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From our recent escapades throughout Bristol to the funeral wishes of one of the most well-known evolutionary biologists by way of the latest death podcasts, the Week in Death has got you covered.


There’s been a call by the Royal College of Physicians to encourage doctors to start talking about death with patients long before their final days.

Rather than treating death as “one-off, tick-box” event, the RCP wants to see doctors more proactive: this means not leaving important conversations until the final days, and involving carers and families too.

Most people die in hospital but the report shows that’s where the least chance of discussion takes place. Given the increasing number of people dying from frailty and diseases that come with older age, there needs to be a focus on the way most of us die now – from a gradual decline in health because of old age, or a terminal illness.

We’d like to see a mandatory conversation about death built into the doctor-patient relationship, or at least the option to have that conversation – using clear language, and with families present. 

Here’s our quick round-up of other death-related news we’ve come across this week:

Farewell Wishes

Have you thought about your own death? That’s right. DEATH. It’s out there, it’s looming and it’s known to make itself present at the most untimely moments.

Why not get ahead of the curve and get it in order with Farewell Wishes. It takes about same time as boiling a kettle, or eating a really tough gammon steak. Start here. takes to the streets of Bristol

We surprised the good people of Bristol on a weekday lunchtime to ask them about death. Did you see us? We were the odd folks wielding a tripod and notebook, asking unsuspecting people personal questions.

From frank discussions to an enthusiasm to tell us some of their most personal thoughts, the people of Bristol surprised us in ways we weren’t expecting. Watch out for Death next time your heading out for lunch… we might be coming to a city near you!

Articles on

Modern Death Rituals

You check Twitter over your Cheerios religiously, and you cross your fingers when you really want a good dose of luck to course your way. So why should we give up the idea of death rituals in our secular society? There’s a whole host of alternative reminders of death out there, from death dinner parties to writing a letter before you die.

Coffin Inventions

Ever wondered why the Victorians gained such a reputation for being sex and death-obsessed? Put it down to their stubborn belief in the possibility that those who were died might well be very much not dead. We review some of the best and worst coffin-related inventions. Watch out for those coffin torpedos.

Watching, reading, listening

We’ve been intrigued by the hit podcast, Dr Death. Given its name, we couldn’t resist it. It focuses on Christopher Duntsch, the American surgeon who had a serial tendency to kill off patients rather than save them. It’s now being turned into a terrifying TV show of the same name.

As a nation we seem to be enthralled by real-life crime stories, especially told through everyone’s favourite medium, the podcast. Dr Death in its original guise was downloaded over 8 million times; is there a reason we’re so attracted to the gruesome and depraved when we know there’s a true story behind it?


If you ever thought the evolutionary biologists were a strange bunch, you’d be right. Described by Richard Dawkins as “a good candidate for the title of most distinguished Darwinian since Darwin”, Hamilton in his life put together a modern evolutionary theory, fusing maths and natural history. In his death, he had similarly grand ambitions.

In a heavily-detailed essay called ‘My Preferred Burial and Way’, Hamilton provided grounds for his own funeral by way of an explanation of the life-cycle of beetles that lay their eggs in animal corpses they’ve buried. He fantasised about being buried by his favourite beetles in his favourite place, the Amazonian rainforest:

“I will leave a sum in my last will for my body to be carried to Brazil and to these forests. It will be laid out in a manner secure against the possums and the vultures just as we make our chickens secure; and this great Coprophanaeus beetle will bury me […] I will escape death. No worm for me nor sordid fly, I will buzz in the dusk like a huge bumble bee. I will be many, buzz even as a swarm of motorbikes, be borne, body by flying body out into the Brazilian wilderness beneath the stars, lofted under those beautiful and un-fused elytra which we will all hold over our backs. So finally I too will shine like a violet ground beetle under a stone.”

Unfortunately, WD Hamilton’s wishes were never carried out. But he might have left a lasting legacy: the prospect of burial by violet ground beetle. This is exactly why Farewell Wishes was created: Check it out here. 

Check out the Death Blog next week for more of our favourite death-related bits and pieces. In the meantime, take a look at to start planning ahead.

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