In the Chinese languages the word for the number 4 sounds like the word for death. Thus it is avoided as much as possible. In Chinese-dominated countries, buildings will have missing 4th, 14th, 24th floors, etc. On hotel room floors there will be missing rooms 4, 14, 24, etc. Such is the danger of the word that it must not be mentioned if at all possible. This can also occur in non-Chinese countries where members of the Chinese Diaspora have settled. Through a laborious application through the local city council, the former number 224 is now known as 222a.
To mention death is to welcome it. Don’t talk about it and you can avoid it. Keep away from hospitals if you don’t want to get sick. Don’t go to graveyards or the deadly malaise will be caught. Advance care planning can be a difficult subject to raise for members of such cultural/ethnic groups. Funeral insurance may be a hard sell. Death is not discussed and people become unfamiliar with it. What you don’t know about becomes a scary monster. Something to be feared.
Not many visitors want to take the tour of the local hospice. “What do you do for a job?” “Oh…you must be so…special,” whilst clutching a bulb of garlic in one hand and in the other prayer beads. Holy water, buy now before stocks run out.
The Palliative Care trainee greeted the Renal trainee, “How you doing?”
The Renal trainee replied, “I’m saving lives.”
The Palliative Care trainee thought to himself, “Sure you are, while I am saving quality of life.”
If people have trouble even talking about dying, how will they be when it comes to looking after dying people? How will the dying patient be treated? Will they be treated as a failure in life? Are they worthy of our care and attention? They can wait, they’re dying anyway. As if they had any say in the matter.
As medical technology has improved throughout the world, societies are less accepting that death is a fact of life. Death-denying cultures are on the rise at the detriment of some of the most vulnerable people on Earth, those who are dying. That doesn’t sound right to me. Maybe I’d better be careful in my choice of words.