“The best kept secret of medicine: dying is not as bad as you think”

“The best kept secret of medicine: dying is not as bad as you think”

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“In my humble opinion, dying is not as bad as you would expect.”

This is the opinion on death of Kathryn Mannix, a British pioneer in palliative care, who has dedicated her career to treating patients with incurable diseases or in the last stages of her life.

For the author of “With the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of Denial” (With death in mind: death, death and wisdom in the age of denial), society leads us to avoid talking of this process and even to replace the word death with euphemisms.

This, she explains, makes it much more difficult for us to deal with the loss of a loved one.

Stripe

“We have stopped talking about death.

We have stopped using the word die (dying in English) and we use similar ones.

Instead of saying that someone is dying, we say that he is ‘seriously ill’.

Woman looking at ladder going up to the sky
Copyright of the image GETTY IMAGESImage caption “I think we have lost the immense human wisdom to take death in a normal way,” says Mannix.

And families do not understand that the time of death is approaching when these words are used.

That’s a big problem, because when the family is near the bed of someone very sick, who is about to die, they do not know what to say to each other or to the person who is dying.

The person who is dying does not know what to say, nor what to expect, and he may be wondering if this is his last breath.

This is a scene marked by sadness, anxiety and despair.

And, in my humble opinion, this does not have to be the case.

As natural as born

I think we have lost the immense human wisdom to take death in a normal way.

I think it’s time to talk about death again and recover that wisdom.

What would it be like to die normally?

Dying, as well as being born, is simply a process.

“I think we have lost the immense human wisdom to take death in a normal way. It is time to talk about death again and recover that wisdom.” Kathryn, expert in palliative care

Gradually, people get tired, exhausted.

As time passes, people go to sleep more and less time awake.

The family can learn at what time they should give (the sick person) the medicines and when to let the visitors go.

Sometimes it can happen that a visit comes or that it is time to give a doctor (the sick person) when he is asleep.

That’s when we can realize that something has changed.

Nurse taking a sick man's hand.
Copyright of the image GETTY IMAGESImage caption Do not run away from the subject and use the precise words to refer to what happens is something that helps us deal with the loss, says Mannix.

It is a small but very significant change.

And it is that instead of being asleep, this person is-temporarily-unconscious.

We can not wake them up and we can not give them their medicine. We can not tell you that a visit has arrived.

Then, when they wake up, they tell us that they have slept very well.

That’s why we know that this coma is not terrifying.

Only that we do not notice this moment of loss of consciousness at the moment it occurs.

Sound of death

So as time goes on, they are less awake, more sleepy, until, in the end, they are unconscious all the time.

Patient with his family
Copyright of the image GETTY IMAGESImage caption Talking about death allows us all to find comfort, says the doctor.

And the patient will feel so relaxed that it will not clear his throat and he will continue to breathe with a little mucus or saliva in the back of his throat.

That may generate a strange noise .

People talk about that sound of death as something weird.

But that means that the patient is so relaxed, in a state of unconsciousness so deep, that not even the saliva in the throat tickles them, when air bubbles enter and leave the lungs.

“In the last moments of life, there is a period of shallow breathing and then an exhalation to which an inhalation no longer follows.” Kathryn Mannix, expert in palliative care

In the last moments of life, there is a period of shallow breathing and then an exhalation to which an inhalation no longer follows.

Sometimes it is so mild that families do not realize it.

Therefore, normal death is really a quiet process , something we can recognize, for what we can prepare ourselves and something we can deal with.

And this should be something to celebrate .

Something with which we can comfort each other.

But as talking about death has become uncomfortable, it is, in fact, the best kept secret of medicine.

Therefore, in my opinion, dying in this way is something that we should recover, it is something we should talk about and something we should consult with each other.

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