The project opening is timed to coincide with Dying Matters Awareness Week (13-19 May 2019).
The Academy purposefully brought this project to a neighbourhood outside of London’s central museum district to encourage conversations about dying in an everyday environment.
Walking past The Departure Lounge, shoppers will see what appear to be travel posters promoting exotic destinations in the windows. On closer inspection, the slogans are actually common phrases we all use to avoid talking about death.
Inside, visitors find themselves in an airport departure lounge where suitcases tell stories of lives well lived and luggage tags reveal how medical science has changed the way we die. An interactive life-size departures board will help visitors answer pertinent questions about death and explore what matters most at the end of life personally, and for their loved ones. At the departure gates visitors will have the opportunity to talk to a diverse range of experts in end of life care and death and dying research.
Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences said:
'People might be apprehensive about coming into a space to talk about death, but we have created a positive place to find out about how having conversations about death and dying can help us all live our entire lives to the fullest. This shouldn’t just be a conversation we have when faced with the end of life; it’s something we should talk about throughout our lives.'
Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham, said:
'Lewisham’s community is diverse and welcoming, so I’m delighted The Academy of Medical Sciences chose our borough to host The Departure Lounge. The history of Lewisham has great ties with this exhibition, which encourages discussion about death and dying. Sydenham is the proud birthplace of the world’s modern hospice movement, where the pioneering doctor Dame Cicely Saunders founded St Christopher’s Hospice.'
Research shows that 88% of dying people who express a preference say that they want to die at home or in a care home. Hospitals are the least preferred place of death. Shockingly, London has 33% fewer deaths in care homes than the national average, and more hospital deaths than the national average. This could be partly because London also has 10% fewer care home beds for those over 75 years old than the national average. As well as this variation across the nation, there are huge differences in overall quality of care within London. The second best rated Clinical Commissioning Group for general and specialist palliative care in the UK is in London; and so is the worst.