Monday, September 3, 2018

Dying: Real and Imagined Perspectives (Research, Video 3:19)

Even though most people say they dread dying, the good news is that the reality of dying isn’t so bad after all. Many people imagine that dying is worse than it is in reality. This became apparent in two death research studies comparing the affective experience of people facing imminent death with that of people imagining imminent death.

The first study revealed that blog posts of near-death patients with cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis were more positive and less negative than the simulated blog posts of non-patients. Also, the patients' blog posts became more positive as death neared. The second study revealed that the last words of death-row inmates were more positive and less negative than the simulated last words of non-inmates. The last words of these studies suggest that the experience of dying, even from terminal illness or execution, may be more pleasant than one imagines.

Why are some people so afraid of death? Dr. Ira Byock, a leading palliative care physician, author, and public advocate for improving care through the end of life, thinks it's partly a human thing that has become more exaggerated during the last century. The American way of dying has gradually become dying in the hospital, maybe in the intensive care unit. Many Americans are dying tethered to machines. Dr. Byock emphasizes the best care possible in a way that is not always seeking to prolong life.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

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