Dying without dignity


Alzheimer’s disease – A progressive condition, and one that is the most common cause of dementia. It results in brain cells dying, leading to the loss of mental ability. 

Anaesthetist – A doctor who specialises in pain management and pain relief.

Biopsy – A medical procedure that involves removing a sample of tissue so that it can be examined under a microscope in a laboratory, usually in order to diagnose a condition.  

Cardiac arrest – An emergency condition that happens when a person’s heart stops beating, or when their heart beat is no longer effective enough to pump sufficient blood around their body.

CT scan  – X-rays configured by computer to give three-dimensional images far more powerful than those produced by conventional techniques.  

Cervix – The part of the female reproductive system that connects the vagina to the womb.

Dialysis – A treatment in which waste products, excess salt and excess water are artificially filtered from the bloodstream because a person’s kidneys are not healthy enough to perform this function. 

Drip – A thin tube used to deliver fluids or medication directly into a patient’s vein.

Fallopian tube – One of the two parts of the female reproductive system that connect the ovaries (see below) to the womb.

Gold Standard Framework – A national training and co-ordinating centre supporting clinical staff and organisations to use processes and to work in ways to ensure best possible care for those nearing the end of their lives.

Gynaecologist – A doctor who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting women, particularly those involving the female reproductive system.

The Liverpool Care Pathway (for the dying patient)  – Was developed through the 1990s with the intention of extending the principles of hospice care to other community and hospital settings. Its holistic approach included measures for comfort; stopping treatment that was no longer appropriate; prescribing medicines to help anticipated difficulties; psychological and spiritual care; and support for the family.

Macmillan nurses – Experienced nurses who specialise in palliative care and who work mainly in people’s homes and in NHS hospitals. They support patients with cancer, assess complex needs, and support other involved professionals. Marie Curie nurses fulfil a similar role, but provide more ‘hands on’ care and longer periods of direct care, often including overnight. 

The Mental Health Act 1983 – Legislation that was introduced in the UK that sets out how to manage and treat people who have, or are suspected of having, mental health problems. 

Morphine – An opiate-based drug that is used to relieve severe pain.

Multidisciplinary team – Professionals from different specialist health and social care backgrounds working together to meet a patient’s individual needs.

Oncologist – A doctor who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Ovary – One of two parts of the female reproductive system that is responsible for releasing eggs.  

Palliative care – Care that is delivered to relieve the symptoms and distress of serious illness, rather than provide a cure.

Pneumonia – Inflammation of the lung(s), usually caused by an infection.

Radiologist – A doctor who specialises in the interpretation of medical images, and how they are used for treatment.

Radiotherapy –  A treatment that uses high-energy beams of radiation to kill or slow the growth of cells, usually in cases of cancer. 

Subcutaneous treatment – The delivery of treatment, usually fluids or medication, through an injection under the surface of the skin.

Syringe driver – A medical device that allows the continuous delivery of liquid medication over a period of time through an injection under the skin.