There are many forms of death. As scientific studies are made and the medical field has developed, dying and death have become complex states of being. Death, as defined, happens when all bodily functions, such as blood pressure and respiration, have already stopped, and when the body becomes cold and rigid.
However, later on, a neurological definition of death emerged as this often becomes the case–this is brain death. This condition occurs when the cortical functioning is no longer active.
In situations such as these and when a person is nearing death, some major issues about the patient’s health care arise. Most often, these become the subjects of moral and ethical debates as decision-making regarding medical interventions for these cases are difficult.
Euthanasia. In severe cases of sickness wherein the patient suffers from a terminal disease or severe disability, there is an option to turn to euthanasia. This is an act of painlessly letting the patient die without further treatment of hospital care. There are two kinds of euthanasia: active and passive.
Active euthanasia is the act of assisted mercy killing. In this situation, the physician or nurse might inject a lethal drug to induce the patient’s death. Although in some instances, this could be permitted, there are lots of issues regarding this matter, making this nor very much acceptable as an option. In most places and situations, this is seen as assisted suicide and that the patients might not be actually terminally ill, rather, they are just suicidal and depressed about their condition.
On the other hand, passive euthanasia is the act of withdrawing the patient from life-support system or other treatments to end his/her life. As compared with active euthanasia, this is more widely accepted. However, debates argue that patients in comatose usually do not have conscious contribution in this decision-making. Rather, the family members are the only ones who are left to decide for the dying patient.
Natural Death Act and Advanced Directive. To address the issue on giving consent, some states in America established the Natural Death Act which lets the terminally ill patients sign a consent which serves an advanced directive if the situation calls for the life-sustaining procedures to be stopped. This resolves the issue because it would be the patients’ own free will while they were still conscious.
Given these, dying people need enough care and support as their lives end. It does not mean that when somebody is nearing death, he/she could be taken for granted already and the few days or hours left serve no purpose. Adequate healthcare is needed as most dying patients suffer from severe physical and emotional pain. Moreover, over caring by subjecting these patients in life-sustaining procedures, when in fact it’s against their will, is also not a proper approach.
It would be best if the hospital staff and physicians not be assertive of their own opinions and suggestions. Rather, dying patients must be respected and given the right to choose and decide for his/her own.
To provide quality end-of-life care, there is an option for families to put their dying family member in hospice care. It is a program which focuses on palliative care, or in other words, aids individuals to resign in peace and dignity. It addresses the concerns of dying individuals as the staffs are specifically trained to make the dying patient as comfortable as possible.
Although this is just a start-up program, the hospice care, whether it be home-based or institutionalized, gradually picks up its reputation. It truly serves and addresses sufficiently a dying person’s needs.
There are different causes of death as it could happen at any time during a person’s life span. Babies could die while they are being delivered due to complications in birthing. There are also a lot of infant illnesses that children could contract which may be genetic in nature or caused by the environment.
One of the most common causes of death in infants is the sudden infant death syndrome, wherein the baby’s respiration suddenly stops. For children, most common causes are accidents as they become prone because of curiosity and being mobile. On the other hand, adolescence death is usually caused by suicide, homicide, motorcycle incidents, or other results of violence. In adulthood and beyond, diseases such as cancer and other complications become the reason behind their deaths.
In relation to this, there are also varying attitudes towards death for different stages in a person’s life-span. Children might not yet have a full grasp on the concept of death as they are not yet aware of what it truly means. However, their relationship with the dead individual would make them anxious or depressed for some time.
As they grow up in childhood by about 9 years of age, they begin to realize that death is something final and irreversible. On the other hand, most adolescents do not perceive death as something that could happen to them any sooner.
However, they believe that death has a deeper meaning and if a friend dies of suicide, they become guilty as they think that they could have done something to prevent death from happening. For adults, death becomes an open idea as they somewhat think that they could be hitting the bucket any time.
They become fearful as they begin to think how much time they have left. Finally, in old age, death is something that is very much acceptable as they begin to look back at the course of their lives. It is the time when people anticipate death in a positive perspective.
As death comes nearer, people undergo the same kind of experience as discussed in Kübler-Ross’ Model of the stages of dying. This is more appropriate for those who have terminal illnesses and not for those who experience instant death.
The first stage is denial as the person might not admit to himself/herself that death is definitely drawing closer. It serves as a defense mechanism for those who could not accept their fate. Next, the person would feel anger towards what he/she is going to face. They ask philosophical questions such as the reason why they are bound to die at that point.
Following this is the bargaining stage which is usually is a conversation with God asking for another shot in life or for his/her life to be extended in exchange for some good deed or a change in lifestyle. When the person gets tired in bargaining and being defensive about his/her death, depression kicks in.
It is the time when the person gets to accept his/her fate and realizes what he/she would be missing in life. Finally, acceptance is the last stage as it brings a sense of peace to the dying person. It becomes the end of a long struggle and fight for life.
When a person finally dies, the people close to him/her would be left grieving for the loss of a loved one. A grieving individual might feel numb deep inside or lonely and in despair. There are multiple dimensions to grieving. For one, the person who suffers from grief might want to bring back to life his/her loved one who died.
This is called pining. Next, there is also the preoccupation with the dead person in the sense that everything associated with him/her would be a reminder of his/her death. Furthermore, sadness and depression makes the grieving person lose interest in anything. Grieving does not end all at once as it could come and go every once in a while. However, it should be given proper concern if the person suffers from a very long term grief as it could cause suicidal tendencies.
To cope with the loss, different cultures have their own ways in adjusting to overcome grief. For some countries, there are rituals which break the bond between the dead and the living. There are cultures which encourage the people left behind to have fun and celebrate, but in others, it is expected for people to wallow in despair for a long time.
The grieving period is the time when people make sense of the world around them. They reflect on how the last days of the dying person were spent. There is a constant struggle to make sense of the death, to give reasons as to why the death happened. They also begin to introspect about the relevance of life.