Death Dinner Parties: People Gather Over Dinner to Discuss Dying

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 25, 2013   |   5:31PM   |   Washington, DC

The new craze in the Manhattan social scene isn’t related to the latest cocktail, the newest bar or the next fabulous dance club. Instead, top socialites are gathering together for old-fashioned dinner parties with a new twist:  a conversation about death and dying.

At a Manhattan dinner party, the former CEO of Citigroup Inc. mixed it up with guests at his Fifth Avenue to sip wine and discuss their plans for how they want to go.

From a report:

“I think about it a lot and talk about it very little,” Landauer said to the group, which included a filmmaker, a private school principal, and a professional storyteller. Not to be confused with a macabre parlor game, the evening was conceived to confront real-life issues wrapped up in death and dying that few people like to acknowledge, let alone talk about at a dinner party. Would I want a feeding tube? Does dad want to die at home? What happens to my kids if I die in an accident along with my spouse?

Those questions are getting asked more frequently. Over the past month, hundreds of Americans across the country have organized so-called death dinners, designed to lift the taboo around talking about death in hopes of heading off conflicts over finances and medical care — and avoiding unnecessary suffering at the end of life. It’s a topic that is resonating as baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, deal with the passing of their parents, even as they come face-to-face with their own mortality.

About 70 percent of adults don’t have a living will, a legal document detailing the medical interventions they’d want or not want if unable to communicate, according to the Pew Research Center. As many as 30 percent of Americans 65 and older don’t have a will detailing what should happen with their assets, a Pew survey found. If those discussions don’t happen ahead of an illness or death, it can leave family members conflicted over what to do.

Death cafes are popular in Europe, according to Wesley Smith.