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Dying for beginners: how understanding death can help us to live better

Dying for beginners: how understanding death can help us to live better

On All Saints’ Day, Dr Kathryn Mannix will speak about mortality, the themes of death–myths and the preciousness of a finite lifetime

We have great pleasure in inviting you, on behalf of Theos and CCLA, to the Theos Annual Lecture 2023, which will be delivered by Dr Kathryn Mannix. The title of this year’s lecture is Dying for beginners: how understanding death can help us to live better.

About Dr Kathryn Mannix

Acclaimed author, speaker and former palliative care physician Dr Kathryn Mannix has spent her medical career working with people who have incurable, advanced illnesses. The author of two Sunday Times Bestsellers – With The End in Mind and Listen, Dr Mannix is on a mission to reclaim the public’s understanding of dying.

Starting in cancer care and changing career to become a pioneer of the new discipline of palliative medicine, she has worked as a palliative care consultant in teams in hospices, hospitals and in patients’ own homes, optimising quality of life even as death is approaching. She is passionate about public education, and having qualified as a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist in 1993, she started the UK’s first CBT clinic exclusively for palliative care patients, and devised ‘CBT First Aid’ training to enable palliative care colleagues to add new skills to their repertoire for helping patients. Dr Mannix is now a regular speaker, writer and commentator on death and dying. Her recent TED talk What Happens As We Die?has been viewed more than half a million times.

About the lecture

Held on All Saints Day, which falls in the middle of the “days of the dead” in the Christian calendar – Halloween and All Souls Day – Dr Mannix’s Theos lecture will explore topics around mortality, universal themes of death–myths, the process we need to re–familiarise ourselves with, and the preciousness of a finite lifetime.

In partnership with the Susanna Wesley Foundation, Theos recently published a study mapping public attitudes towards death, dying and the afterlife in the UK, including how COVID–19 has shaped the conversation and outlook on death. Looking forward, we will be publishing further research in this area which especially considers what emerging ways of grieving tell us about our deepest cultural values.

Death is something many of us find difficult to talk about in modern society. According to sociologist Jack Fong, the “trinity” of the market, the media, and life–extending medicine have led us to avoid talking about death at the existential and spiritual level, and instead have created a society that tiptoes around and is uneasy about death. In 2015, polls found that only 21% of the British population had talked about their death with someone else, and just 36% had written a will. 72% believed that people in Britain are “uncomfortable” discussing death, dying and bereavement.

The Covid–19 pandemic, however, brought death and mortality to the forefront of public consciousness in a radical, and traumatic way.

The lecture will also feature a new Theos animation ahead of the launch of a new a report that will offer a theological response to the changing nature of attitudes and practices related to death, dying and the afterlife; the spiritual and emotional nuances surrounding dying and bereavement; and a lack of theological reflection on death in the public conversation, despite continued spiritual beliefs and use of Christian spiritual resources in secular funerals.

About Theos

Theos is the UK’s leading religion and society think tank. We exist to tell a better story about Christianity in particular and faith in general, both in the sense of more accurate and honest but also more appealing and attractive. We believe that religious faith is a gift and not a threat, and properly understood has the potential to inform and enrich our societies.

We are delighted again to partner with CCLA for this lecture. CCLA is the UK’s leading fund manager for charities, faith and public sector organisations with a long history of managing assets for Christian organisations; and, this year, it will be possible for individuals to invest in their newly launched Better World fund. CCLA also provide the Secretariat for the Church Investors Group, that helps Christian investors world–wide develop and implement investment policies based on their faith.

Practical information: The lecture will be held on Wednesday 1st November at the Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 0AE. Doors will open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start, and the lecture will be followed by a drinks and canapés reception.

The venue is accessible and the lecture will not be livestreamed but will be filmed and available to watch following the event. Full information on getting to the venue and access can be found here.


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The Royal Society of Medicine
1 Wimpole Street
London W1G 0AE


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