The Best Places to Go to Die
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because we all have to die.
By Eugene S. Robinson
There are many things totally outside of your control. Being born (and to whom and where) and how you die? Neither are things you choose to steer the vehicle of your life through. But if we’re considering the realm of the known, what we do know: If you’re reading this, you were born and you will, most assuredly, die.
Which brings us to the things you can control. Specifically, where you might choose to be when your days are winnowed down to their last ones. Sure, in the bosom of your family is a good place to start — unless, of course, your family is not one you’d want to be around, alive or dead. Then you might want to consider alternatives.
The good news is, we have alternatives. The bad news is, no matter how good the good news is, this will only matter to you if you’re dying. So, with that in mind? The Top 4 Places to Exit Planet Earth.
Despite being 100 percent sure that there are more than a few towns in Britain (Bradford, we’re looking at you) that we’d prefer not to be caught dead in, dying in the U.K. is supposed to be generally one of the best places to do so. Mostly on account of the metrics connected to the National Health Service and taking seriously the human needs for emotional support, pain relief and simple things like keeping people active. “This particular lady had family that actively participated in her daily life. That really makes a difference,” recounts personal care assistant Leah Baker. “I have worked with others that never had visits from family, and it was very depressing.” Which is not how anyone wants to end up. Depressed, that is.
And despite our swipe at Bradford, if there was an actual place in the U.K. to go to meet your maker under the aforementioned circumstances, the vote goes to the Lake District. Beautiful and good enough for William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, among others who were connected to the 885 square miles of the Lake District National Park. And the best time of year to die there? April and May if you prefer some sunshine, or September and October for autumn colors.
Even in death, dying poor seems significantly worse than dying rich, and despite that seeming distasteful, dying is less about taste and more about very real and substantive issues — like palliative care and state-of-the-art hospices — which is how Australia ends up on this list.
The town trumpets that it’s not just one of the best places to die, but the best place to die.
Well, that and the Western Australian town of Albany. The town trumpets that it’s not just one of the best places to die, but the best place to die. In a country that sets aside a day known as Dying to Know Day — a day just to talk about death, dying and bereavement — that says a lot, but the Albany Community Hospice also has living wakes. Pets are welcome, as are non-drama-loving family members.
All of which is a welcome antidote to some of the worst ways to die. Such as experiencing loss of control over the end. At an American neurological and behavioral secure rehab facility in the Pacific Northwest, former nutrition director Kevin Grant saw 150 of his 165 patients die. “The more impaired the residents were, the more just terribly unjust they felt their own mortality was, mostly because they never had control of anything,” he recounts of his experience. The exact opposite of Albany and a significant contributor to why you might want to choose to say G’Day Mate Down Under.
First off, there’s the beauty factor. Belgium is a beautiful place to be, even if it has some of the worst traffic in Europe and some of the highest traffic death rates, according to Inrix, a traffic data organization. While this might be causally connected to Belgium’s placement on our list, the reality is Belgium, like Australia and the U.K., covers 80 to 100 percent of your palliative-care costs. And despite the recent kerfuffles connected to it having the most liberal laws on physician-assisted suicide — specifically, letting terminally ill children choose to end their lives — having a place to go not far outside of Brussels called the Hallerbos (or the Blue Forest — 1,300-plus acres of woods with millions of bluebells pinioned by beech trees from April to May) might make it all worth it.
If you were looking for the best place in Asia to kick it, cricket, you couldn’t do better than Taiwan, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quality of Death Index. On a tiny island of 23 million people, Taiwan touts the best universal care system in the world. Which is to say, if you’re a legal resident, you can visit any specialist on the island and your fees are billed to and paid by their national health system. Add to that free island-wide Wi-Fi, vegetarian-friendly dining almost everywhere and Taroko National Park with its waterfalls, waterscapes, tunnels and sitting on the famed Tropic of Cancer — the place, not the Henry Miller book — and you have a heavenly last stop.