Category Archives: Social Factors and Our Approach to Dying

There are social and cultural assumptions/beliefs that contribute to how we view death and dying

The Baby Boomers, the largest generation in American history, are now almost all in the last 1/3 of their lives (if average life expectancy is 78). They have spent the previous, early and middle thirds of their lives transforming cultural ideas, expectations and practices (e.g  with the Civil Rights movement, Environmental movement and Women’s movement, etc).

The question now is: “Will the Baby Boomers also transform our cultural ideas, expectations, and practices regarding the End-of-Life?”

I, for one, say “YES!” Here are my predictions and recommendations for this generation of “revolutionaries”:

1. Baby Boomers expect to live longer and will seek out technologies to do so.

 We continue to see life expectancies extended (although the obesity problem may soon change that) and the Boomers will focus on ways to further extend their years on the planet. I strongly recommend however that they seek technologies that will extend quality life rather than quantity alone. For example: Take supplements designed to keep your cells in tip-top shape for as long as possible so that you can run around, play tennis, chase your grandchildren, and read a good book at sunset, but do not choose medical interventions that will prolong your days if those days are going to consist of lying in a bed, unable to poop or pee without assistance. Choose technology that creates quality alone, quality plus quantity, but never quantity only, at the expense of suffering. Continue reading

The names of things often greatly affect our perception. In End-Of-Life lexicon, there is a movement underway to change the name of the medical order DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)  to AND (Allow Natural Death). No change in the medical reality of what occurs, but a radical change in our emotional reaction to the each term:

from “DNR”— “they withholding a medical intervention” (evoking negative feelings)

to “AND“– “they are giving care that allows death to occur naturally.”

I certainly feel more comforted and assured by the latter, positive wording, although both phrases constitute the same  medical pathway.

Now, I am ready to take this a step further, I would like to rename the “Full Code” pathway for those who are in the final stages of a terminal illness or at the end of a long life: instead of offering “Artificial Life Support” to these patients, I will be offering “Artificial Death Extension.”

Yikes! Who in their right mind would want that? Or even say such? Now before you think that I’m an insensitive brute let me explain: Continue reading

I have been an ICU and ER nurse for 16 years and during this time I have seen very few, if any patients or family members that have been “prepared” to die.  I have seen a lot of miracles that have kept people alive, but never have viewed a death as a miracle, until the case of “Mrs. Elizabeth”.

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I am often described as a sassy, confident, lip-gloss wearing trauma nurse who does not mind “telling it like it is” or stating my opinion.  When I am doing my job critical or not, I am very focused and serious and feel that I have to hold back my emotions to provide the best care for my patient. This said, my co-workers are shocked when I get upset over a patient or when I become gentle and sweet because I am moved by a patient experience. Continue reading