UCL Health of the Public


Dignity, decency and dying - Show notes

Season 2 Episode 4: Dignity, decency and dying with Dr. Afsan Bhadelia & Dr. Libby Sallnow.



What needs to be in place for someone to experience a good death, what are the barriers and what is public health’s role in supporting this? Dr Libby Sallnow and Dr. Afsan Bhadelia help unpack the philosophical and intricate topic of death and dying.  Their recent report on the value of death, which delves into the unbalanced and contradictory picture of dying, helps frame this meaningful discussion around death and it's complex systems. 



“Death is something that affects us all and by not talking about it we make it harder.”

Death is not infinitely deferrable, yet the successes of traditional modern Western medicine in increasing life expectancy have hugely impacted the human psyche of immortality. Where can people go to understand death, where is the narrative? Can we prioritise public health in a way that is reflective of social values? And how do we overcome the barriers of power to remove inequalities and prioritise human suffering?

Dr. Libby Sallnow is a palliative medicine consultant with Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. She’s also an honorary senior lecturer at: St Christopher's Hospice and the UCL Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Department. Libby has 20 years’ experience shaping the fields of new public health approaches to end-of-life care, compassionate communities, and social approaches to death, dying, and loss, not just in the UK but all over the world. Libby has written extensively on this topic, having published over 25 articles and book chapters on death and dying, and she co-edited the book "International perspectives on public health and palliative care" in 2011. Most recently, Libby is also the first author of the new Lancet Commission on the Value of death: bringing death back into life (2022).

Dr. Afsan Bhadelia is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She’s a Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Faculty at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, and a Visiting Scholar at the University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas. Afsan is a health systems and disparities researcher – what does all this mean I hear you ask! We’ll hear more on this shortly from Afsan herself but loosely it relates to applying complex systems theory and metrics science to examine social and structural determinants of health inequities. These inequalities could be related to gender for example, and chronic diseases like cancer. Afsan serves on multiple Lancet Commissions, including the Lancet Commission on the Value of Death, and she’s previously co-Chaired the Taskforce on Women and Non-Communicable Diseases.

Public Health Disrupted with Rochelle Burgess and Xand Van Tulleken is produced by Buckers at Decibelle Creative, find her on Instagram: @decibelle_creative and here: https://www.decibellecreative.com