Should We Be Teaching Death Ed In High Schools?

It’s just as important as sex ed.

A critical and palliative care doctor made a compelling case in The New York Times for why we should teach teenagers about death. We teach sexuality, another taboo topic we’re generally not thrilled to talk about, in a formal, cohesive fashion. But we ignore what happens at the end of our lives, despite the fact that, as The Onion has reported, the death rate is holding steady at 100 percent.

None of us understand death well enough, and our lack of knowledge is costly. As the doctor, Jessica Nutik Zitter, author of Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life points out, eighty percent of us would prefer to die at home; only 20 percent do. Many dying patients don’t even understand that they’re dying.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

“In most cases, the suffering could have been avoided, or at least mitigated, by some education on death and our medical system,” Zitter wrote. “If we started to teach death ed in high school, a student visiting a dying grandparent might draw from the curriculum to ask a question that could shift the entire conversation. High school, when students are getting their drivers’ licenses and considering organ donation, is the perfect time for this. Where else do we have the attention of our entire society?”

There’s reason to believe that students might embrace the opportunity to learn about death. Nutik Zitter wrote when she and a colleague went into a high school to teach a death ed class, “No one had fainted. No one had run out of the class screaming.”

Read more Nutik Zitter’s full story here.

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