The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-11-2004, 11:38 AM
dolphinboy dolphinboy is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Bigfork, Montana
Posts: 2,824
Can Someone Acutally "Will" Themself to Death?

I was watching Six Feet Under on HBO over the weekend and one of the premises of the show was that an elderly man had driven himself to the funeral home and then somehow "willed" himself to die.

It didn't look as if he had taken anything to hasten death, or had rigged the car to fill up with exhaust, he just decided to die right there and then. In the story I think he was supposed to be 80 years old.

I know this is pure fiction, but is there any recorded account of an otherwise healthy person saying I'm going to die now and then just die for no apparent reason? Can someone know they are going to die in say the next half hour?

I don't think this has ever happened, without someone actually committing suicide, but I really don't know.

I googled but couldn't find anything...


Steve
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 08-11-2004, 11:52 AM
pravnik pravnik is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: TX
Posts: 13,374
Jainism reportedly has a series of ascetic practices that allows very spiritually advanced practioners to hasten their own deaths, but it does involve taking action beyond simply willing it, like fasting.

Speaking of which, lunchtime!
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 08-11-2004, 12:35 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 17,360
I know a number of terminally ill patients who made up their minds to "let go" and then died within a few hours or days, but they were in bad shape to start with. I don't know of an otherwise healthy person who could wish it and then die almost immediately.

I suppose I could accept the premise that someone had a premonition they would die, and then had a heart attack or pulmonary embolism, but that isn't the same as willing it.
__________________
I'm not just a hack writer -- I'm a hack author
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 08-11-2004, 12:42 PM
Steve MB Steve MB is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Northern VA
Posts: 9,114
Quote:
Originally Posted by dolphinboy
Can someone know they are going to die in say the next half hour?
Sometimes
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 08-11-2004, 12:44 PM
Steve MB Steve MB is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Northern VA
Posts: 9,114
Fixed busted link:

Quote:
Originally Posted by dolphinboy
Can someone know they are going to die in say the next half hour?/QUOTE]
Sometimes
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 08-11-2004, 01:45 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: TX
Posts: 13,374
Quote:
Originally Posted by kunilou
I know a number of terminally ill patients who made up their minds to "let go" and then died within a few hours or days, but they were in bad shape to start with. I don't know of an otherwise healthy person who could wish it and then die almost immediately.
Viktor Frankl wrote something similar in Man's Search for Meaning about his fellow Auschwitz inmantes; sometimes you could tell when a man had decided to die by the fact that they simply lied down and smoked any cigarettes that they had hoarded. These people could generally be predicted to die very soon. I've heard similar stories of people entering nursing homes whose health and mental functioning would rapidly deteriorate for no one discernable reason other than the fact that they were placed in a nursing home. Maybe people don't will themselves to die so much as some people in a distressed state decide they will no longer will themselves to live.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 08-11-2004, 02:25 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
People have in the past developed sudden illnesses or serious conditions for no reason other than "hysteria."

For example people have suffered from sudden, unexplainable blindness due to psychological hysteria.

I don't think someone could just die like in this situation but something could happen.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 08-11-2004, 02:31 PM
Rick Rick is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Posts: 15,493
My mother (bless her heart) always talked about how sick she was.
One day she did get sick (stroke) and it was downhill from there.
Did her mental condition cause the stroke? Probably not, but her lack of recovery might be linked to her attitude
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 08-11-2004, 04:06 PM
Avumede Avumede is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
This has been covered before here, but I can't seem to find it right now.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 08-11-2004, 04:37 PM
Mbossa Mbossa is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
I seem to remember hearing an anecdote about the great mathematician Leonhard Euler saying "I die" and doing just that....

Ahh, here we go:

Quote:
After having amused himself one afternoon with calculating the laws of ascent of balloons, Euler dined with Lexell [a mathematical colleague] and his family. 'Herschel's Planet' (Uranus) was a recent discovery. Euler outlined the calculation of its orbit. A little later he asked that his grandson be brought in. While playing with the child and drinking tea he suffered a stroke. The pipe dropped from his hand, and with the words, "I die," Euler ceased to live and calculate.
(E. Bell, Men of Mathematics)
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 08-11-2004, 04:40 PM
Shrinking Violet Shrinking Violet is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
My mother and father-in-law were a devoted couple for many years. He died in Sept 1995 after a long illness. At this time she was in good health, but she was never the same ..... eight months later she went rapidly downhill and died within three weeks from kidney failure.

We've always said she willed herself to die and be with him again.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 08-11-2004, 04:53 PM
Cluricaun Cluricaun is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
For a few years in high school I worked at a nursing home. Occasionally we would get married couples being admitted together. Of course these were elderly people who were either ill enough or not cognizant enough to live alone anymore. Almost every time when one spouse died, it was usually a matter of weeks, if not less, when the other would pass on. Until then I never believed it was possible to die of a broken heart.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 08-11-2004, 07:11 PM
VernWinterbottom VernWinterbottom is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
My grandmother developed pancreatic cancer and during her illness my grandfather, who was previously healthy, suffered from senility rather suddenly. After a waiting period, he went to a nursing home. Two weeks after entering the facility he died. My grandmother, hospitalized at the time, was not told of her husband's death.

She died on the day of her husband's funeral.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 08-11-2004, 07:24 PM
FilmGeek FilmGeek is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
I thought in the SFU episode, he just knew to the minute when he'd die. His family was saying how meticulous he was, he knew every last detail of everything.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 08-11-2004, 07:39 PM
legion legion is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by dolphinboy
I know this is pure fiction, but is there any recorded account of an otherwise healthy person saying I'm going to die now and then just die for no apparent reason? Can someone know they are going to die in say the next half hour?
IANAD, but, I have never noticed a "game over", "exit" or "quit" button anywhere on anyone.

However, I haven't closely examined that many people. ~sigh~
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 08-11-2004, 09:38 PM
Cardinal Cardinal is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: 742 Evergreen Terrace
Posts: 6,032
In her stage show/movie "God Said 'Ha'", Julia Sweeney tells that her brother with very advanced cancer got so far along that the family finally wished he would die for his own sake. His 30-year old (or whatever) heart and lungs just kept going, though.

A counselor went in and told him to imagine jumping on a trampoline, and then just jumping off to one side and letting go of the process.

He died that day.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 08-11-2004, 11:10 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 22,188
My stepfather's father was sent to a nursing home because he was having balance problems and couldn't take care of himself too well. He did fine for a few weeks and his mental facilities were perfectly fine. His wife continued to live at home. One day, she decided that she wanted to move into the nursing home too and get taken care of. She moved in to the same room. My stepfather got a call from his father that night and was told that it was terrible having his mother in the same room because she wouldn't shut up and kept nagging him. He said that he couldn't take it. The next morning, they found him dead in his bed.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 08-11-2004, 11:11 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 22,188
Of natural causes I should add.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 08-12-2004, 12:12 AM
masonite masonite is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by dolphinboy
I don't think this has ever happened, without someone actually committing suicide, but I really don't know.

I googled but couldn't find anything...
As did I. "'Funeral home' death car 'obscurestore'" turned up nothing relevant ... but I am pretty sure this was a real news item a year or two back; an old man drove himself to the funeral home and died just as he pulled into the parking lot. Surely it ws discussed here ... anybody??

Stories of spouses who died within months, weeks, or days of their loved ones' death are quite common, I think. But driving oneself, on one's last breath, to the morturary -- that's unusual.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:10 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.