Dying at Home: A Return to Sanity

Saturday, 28 Apr 2012 19:05

About Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy (120 Posts)

Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician, who practices in one of the largest emergency departments in the United States at Huntsville Hospital. Through her writing and speaking, she is devoted to transforming the end of life into a time of peace, closure and healing. Media Page

Just as we cannot wait to bring home a new baby, to bathe it in the warmth and love of “home,” so should we seek to bring home our dying.


Because the beginning of life and the end of life should be centered in the home.  Home is our root, it is the baseline of our consciousness. Our earliest memories tend to be of events at our home, and so should be our last.

There is no comfort greater than that which can be created in our homes, if we but expend the energy to make it so. In our culture, working mothers and fathers take leave from work to be present at home with new life, and likewise, we should create structures in our society which allow us to be at home with others at the twilight of life- when precious lasts breaths are taken.

Why should we make this a priority?

Because 90% of Americans wish to die at home, yet nearly 80% of us die in medical institutions (see The 90-80 Dilemma). Can we not find ways to fulfill the wishes of those who are facing the end of life?

I know that we can, and we must, and because one day, the dying one will be you.

Finally, dying is one of the most emotional and profound life events we will ever experience, both for ourselves and those we love. The deepest moments and intimacies of life should be shared in private settings—not in sterile hospital rooms, among strangers and metal wires—all unnecessary intruders on this occasion.

So, I ask all who will listen to return to sanity: Let us bring our dying people home where they “belong.”  We medical professionals will bring our best medicine to you (in the form of hospice care) so that life may end in the same way that it begins—held in the arms of those who love you, in the place you call home.

(Note: Dying at home requires planning and knowledge [otherwise you will likely die in a hospital or nursing home, the present default mode of our medical system] .

  • You must plan ahead and make it known to everyone that you wish to pass away at home so that steps may be taken to assure this pathway.
  • To activate the “dying at home” pathway, you must actually know that you are dying.This knowledge is often understood subconsciously by the one who is dying and some family, but it usually takes a doctor who has enough guts to say “You are dying,” or “You are in the end-of-life” to get the wheels turning in the right direction.
  • If your doctor cannot be this honest (and you should ask him/her in advance), then find a doctor who can. The quality of your dying, for yourself and your family, depends on it!

Monica Williams-Murphy, MD

(Picture source: Beloit Regional Hospice)




Our Book: It's OK to Die

"It's OK to Die" is a ground-breaking book filled with graphic stories straight out of the Emergency Room illustrating how most Americans are completely unprepared for death and dying. In response, the authors have created a unique and comprehensive guide urging EVERYONE to prepare in advance, to assure their own peace and to prevent the suffering of their loved ones.
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