Changing Attitudes toward Death and Dying

USA TODAY, April 1994 | Go to article overview

Changing Attitudes toward Death and Dying


Americans are taking a new approach to the issues of serious illness and death. A survey conducted by the Roper Organization for the Florists' Transworld Delivery Association (FTD) revealed a widespread openness to discuss these previously taboo topics.

There is perhaps no subject more difficult to talk about than dying. Yet, the vast majority of respondents (86%) believes that people are more open today in talking about serious, terminal illness than in the previous 10 years. The subject of death itself is open for discussion, notes Kathleen O'Neil, Roper vice president: "A majority of respondents [67%] say they personally can talk about death and dying and do so with more ease than ever before."

Americans are making arrangements for their deaths. A substantial portion of the population has organized the legal and practical aspects of their deaths to ensure respect of their wishes and the care of loved ones in their absence. In this world of increasingly sophisticated technologies, many people also contemplate how they would like their medical care handled should they become so ill they can not make their wishes known. Thirty percent have discussed with someone close to them how they would like this handled, and 13% have signed a living will providing medical instructions.

Three-quarters of those surveyed believe that support services provide an excellent way to help people endure the death of a loved one. …

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