Cancer is the best way to die as it allows people the chance to say goodbye without having a long drawn-out death, a top doctor has said.

Writing a blog post for the BMJ, Richard Smith said there are four main ways to die – sudden death, organ failure, cancer and dementia. He notes that suicide is a fifth option but that he is "leaving that on one side for now".

The former BMJ editor, who is chair of the board of Patients Know Best, a social enterprise that puts patients in charge of their medical records, said we should "stop wasting billions" trying to find a cure and let nature take its course.

While many people say they would like to die by sudden death, Smith points out that although this may be preferable for the victim, their family and friends are left traumatised, especially if relationships and finances are not in order.

Dementia is long and slow, where you are eventually erased, while organ failure will leave people hospitalised for most of their remaining time.

"So death from cancer is the best ... You can say goodbye, reflect on your life, leave last messages, perhaps visit special places for a last time, listen to favourite pieces of music, read loved poems, and prepare, according to your beliefs, to meet your maker or enjoy eternal oblivion."

"This is, I recognise, a romantic view of dying, but it is achievable with love, morphine, and whisky. But stay away from overambitious oncologists, and let's stop wasting billions trying to cure cancer, potentially leaving us to die a much more horrible death."

His comments follow similar remarks by Ezekiel J Emanuel in September last year. The US doctor credited for ObamaCare said longevity is overrated and he hopes to die at 75, saying living too long is also a loss.

"It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived," he said.

"It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic."