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TRANSCRIPT: What Happens As We Die: Kathryn Mannix

Here is the transcript of Kathryn Mannix’s TEDx Talk titled ‘What Happens As We Die?’ at TEDxNewcastle conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


Dr Kathryn Mannix – Palliative Care Physician

Human beings are the only animals capable of contemplating their own mortality, and they’ve been doing that for thousands of years. And yet somehow, in the very recent past, we have lost the practical wisdom of what happens as people die. I think that that’s a problem. And if you agree with me that it is a problem, then we have to work out what we’re going to do about it.

When she was in her mid-twenties, in the 1920s, my grandmother was already deeply familiar with the sequence of events that happened to a human person as they were coming to the end of their life. And that’s because, as a woman, and it was usually women’s work, she was doing what women had done for centuries. Looking after people at the very end of their lives, in their own beds, in their own homes, supported by their own people, because a hospital had nothing to offer once a person was so sick that their death was imminent.

And yet, when I reached my mid-twenties, in the 1980s, I had none of her wisdom and understanding and knowledge of dying, and that was even though I’d just finished five years at medical school. As a newly qualified doctor, I’d spent five years being trained to stop people from dying.

And actually, if a death happened, it was a thing that was seen as a medical disaster. It was a thing that was embarrassing. It was a thing of which we do not speak.

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