The death of David Bowie, iconic musician and artist, on Jan. 10 inspired palliative care specialist Dr. Mark Taubert to write a blog about end-of-life scenarios and the importance of advance care planning. The blog, which begins by thanking Mr. Bowie for his many artistic contributions, continues by suggesting that his planned death at home will inspire many people in similar health crises to consider palliative care. The palliative care conversation between a doctor and a patient facing death can be challenging but can lead to what Dr. Taubert called “a good death” at home with symptoms managed and loved ones nearby. Mr. Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, tweeted a link to the blog in the days after his father’s death.
Dr. Taubert found himself speaking with a patient who was facing probable death in the near future, and both doctor and patient found inspiration in Mr. Bowie’s final music project and his death at home with his family. Dr. Taubert and his patient were able to have the conversation about palliative care at end-of-life in part because they were both impressed with what Mr. Bowie was able to achieve in his last months. “Your story became a way for us to communicate very openly about death, something many doctors and nurses struggle to introduce as a topic of conversation,” he wrote.
Dr. Taubert of the Velindre NHS Trust in Cardiff, Wales, noted that, although palliative care is a highly developed skill with many resources to help patients at the end of life, “this essential part of training is not always available for junior healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses, and is sometimes overlooked or under-prioritized by those who plan their education. I think if you [David Bowie] were ever to return (as Lazarus did), you would be a firm advocate for good palliative care training being available everywhere.”