Primary Palliative Care Research Group

Strictly Come Dying

This video discusses the different illness trajectories as though each were a dance with a particular tempo and complexity. Just as knowing the dance will help someone dance well, understanding typical physical and emotional sequences of various illnesses help people live and die well.


Recently in the UK 'Strictly Come Dancing' is a TV series that revived interest in ballroom dancing spawning similar programmes internationally. 

Waltz with the angel of Death
Waltz with Death

In the Medieval Times in Europe there was a concept of the “Dance Macabre” or dance of death, and there were many paintings and even books describing the last phase of life as a final dance. This allowed people to consider and even possibly plan for their final days. Nowadays death is rarely mentioned, and the general public know little about it.

Our research group in Edinburgh has studied the last year of life in people dying of various illnesses. We found that people dying  from different diseases experience dying differently, as each disease trajectory involves different experiences, needs, ups and downs.

Read Palliative Care: From Diagnosis to Death

Just as knowing the dance helps someone dance well, understanding the typical sequence of physical and emotional experiences will help all concerned toward the end of life. 

So let’s think the unthinkable.  Let’s have 'Strictly come Dying' on TV. Even before the watershed, as children can be less afraid than adults about this!  Let’s learn to die as well as possible.