A central tenet of palliative care is to help people die with "dignity". The widespread use of this term presupposes that this construct is well understood from the perspective of the terminally ill, and that the factors that bolster or erode dignity are known. However, the paucity of research related to these issues suggests otherwise. Over the past 5 years, this research team, headed by Dr Chochinov, has undertaken a programme of research aimed at explicating what dignity means to those who are terminally ill, and identifying those factors that support and undermine dignity in this patient population. This article will provide a synopsis of that work, with an emphasis on the application of research findings for practice.