Death is damp homes and fast cars. Ischemic and cerebrovascular and end-stage. All the words we can't and don't want to say. The furious flat line of a failed surgery; the slow decline of a failure to thrive.

"You can fight dying," says Rod MacLeod. "But you can't win."

The palliative care specialist remembers working in a British hospice when news came that the Princess of Wales was to visit. The 14 resident patients were all alive the day Diana arrived.

"Over the next 24 hours, seven of them died. People hang on for Christmas sometimes. When we had the