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The 'D' words

Rachel McCoubrie, Consultant in Palliative Medicine

Let’s just say Jim didn’t fix it.

She’s toast, brown bread;

Bought it, croaked it,

Pegged it, snuffed it.

Any of these, but don’t say dead...

With the angels now,

Passed on, passed over,

Gone to sleep,

At peace, we’ve lost her,

Pushing up daisies, living in a box.

She’s kicked the bucket,

Got wings and flying,

Thrown a seven,

Gone to heaven,

But nobody ever said dying...

Deteriorating, crook, unwell,

Going down hill,

Paid her final bill,

On a one way track,

No way back.


Really poorly,

Really, really poorly,

Going to get better surely?

Quite unlikely to recover,

It’s getting serious now my lover.

She’s struggling to catch her breath

But let’s not talk about death...

Euphemisms and clichés –

What trite we all say.

Death, Dying, Dead

They’re so easily said.

We know what they mean

When we’re setting the scene;

So let’s use the ‘D’ words instead.


I wrote this to highlight the many euphemisms we use rather than using the ‘D words’ – death, dying, dead. Working in Palliative Care, I’ve encountered many situations where healthcare professionals have tried to soften their breaking of bad news by not using the ‘D words’, but this has led to confusion and misunderstanding as patients and families have not realised what the healthcare professional was trying to say. This poem is really a plea to use the ‘D words’ so that everyone is clear about what is being said.

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