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Lynne Eldridge MD

Does it Hurt to Die?

By March 21, 2013

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Though we don't often voice this question, many of us have asked it in our thoughts. It may be our own death that we fear will be painful, or that of a loved one who is facing a terminal illness. But family members and friends don't want to raise the question. Doctor's seem to avoid the question. What we're often left with are the horror stories we hear via the grapevine and on TV.

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So what is the answer?

To be honest, death can be painful - very painful - for a significant percent of people. But it doesn't have to be. Repeat, it doesn't have to be.

So if it doesn't have to be painful, where do the horror stories come from? It's not just a thing of the past. It wasn't that long ago that the painful death of Elizabeth Taylor hit the airwaves frightening many of us who have ever had a health condition that could result in death.

People don't have to die with uncontrolled pain, but it sometimes happens for a few reasons. People need to share their pain openly with their doctor in order to receive treatment, and sometimes they are afraid to. They may feel that using more pain medications is an admission that their disease is getting worse, or that they will become tolerant so that the medications no longer work. Doctors in turn need to be trained in the proper use of pain medications at the end of life. They need to remember that everyone experiences pain differently, and that the end of life is not a time to be worried about addiction.

How common is pain at the end of life? What are the barriers that interfere with pain control? And what can you do to make sure that your pain or that of a loved one is controlled so that you can enjoy those last moments together on earth? Check out this article:

Photo: Flickr.com, user Malte Sorensen

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