Never say die: Death euphemisms, misunderstandings and their implications for practice

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Palliative Nursing, 2017, 23 (7), pp. 324 - 330
Issue Date:
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Background: A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on death and dying was conducted to open the dialogue around death and dying. In one activity, participants were asked to engage with language and to think of alternative words (or euphemisms) that are used to describe death. Aim: To reflect from a nursing perspective how language enables and sometimes disguises important messages and conversations. Methods: Four hundred and seventy one participants provided 3053 euphemisms. Findings: Euphemisms were varied, with many providing commentary on their purpose and use. Discussion: As a society we have become quite creative in the use of euphemisms, but need to be mindful of misunderstandings and misinterpretations which can cause embarrassment and distress in clinical situations. Conclusion: This paper describes some of the euphemisms that were provided, examining why they are used and how their use can be easily misconstrued in daily life and in clinical practice.
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