a biologist’s reflections on pain, dying, and hope …

Robert Pollack shares his thoughts on our modern day rituals of death …

“The current hospital response of science to the dying … goes something like this: “You have had the misfortune to be born too soon to benefit from science’s ever deeper comprehension of nature. That is too bad, but since we can know how everything works, certainly one day we will know how to keep a death like yours from happening. Until then, you will understand if we do not spend much time on the relatively uninteresting matter of how it is to die.”

“Today, medical scientists treat very old age, dying, and death with equally fastidious disdain, as if they were all somehow intrinsically uninteresting. If they are as frightened of death as everyone else, then their disdain for aging, death, and dying is a prophecy that keeps them from confronting their fears. A good deal of interesting science lies waiting to be done by scientists able to admit their fears of death and look beyond them to study dying on its own terms.”

“The usual argument for leaving the dying person alone in a cold room with tubes and monitors blocking all human interaction, for allowing the rarest and  sometimes the richest of words to go unheard or unsaid, is that this regimen is necessary to extend the person’s life, albeit only for the shortest of times. But to extend external time by so little while removing all chance of the person’s sharing any of the little internal time left with anyone else is surely another form of de facto torture, equal to withholding painkillers.” [link to article]