Assuming the person dying is aware and not as a result of a major traumatic event or accident. In such circumstances has any study been conducted to establish what the main emotion is felt by the dying person at the exact time of death. Is it fear, sorrow or something else.
When I was sure I was dying after being stabbed next to my heart my emotion was avenge my death. Go into that house and drag her out and take her down. When I awoke at the hospital barely alive the next morning I found out that’s exactly what they did. Helped my recovery attitude a lot.
When I went into the hospital with diabetic ketoacidosis I was sure I was slipping into a coma and was going to die. My emotion was to fight to keep awake until the ambulance arrived and not pass out. Basically, try to keep living.
When I was in an out of control airplane heading towards the ground, my emotion was one of alarm: “I’m going to die!” And I recall not wanting to.
When I was capsized far out in Lake Michigan with no sign of rescue in 40 degree water, there was much less alarm (probably due to hypothermia), just the recognition that “life’s not so bad, I definitely don’t want it to end yet”.
There, a few anecdotes to make up for lack of data.
Not aware of any studies, but ISTM the answer is likely to be highly subjective. People who have not fully accepted the fact that they’re going to die and can’t do anything about it are likely to be fearful and make potentially counterproductive decisions about what to do with their remaining time. in Being Mortal (highly recommended), the author describes sad cases where terminally ill patients have pursued treatments that bought them scant extra time, while destroying the quality of whatever other time they had left.
My mom received a medically-assisted death, for which we (her family) were present. In the last hour there was considerable sadness on her part and ours that we were about to part company forever - but in her very final moments I think she was experiencing relief that her suffering was about to be over.
It varies a lot. I don’t see generalizations to be made. /psychotherapist with grief specialty
I don’t know what emotion I’ll have, but I want to be paying attention. They’ll never be another chance!
I imagine the dominant emotions are:
- “Oh shit!” (like Qadgop_the_Mercotan described).
- “How cool is this!” (until the point “this” unexpected fails catastrophically)
I guess my question would be what is the chance of successful treatment? Do you give up a couple good months for the slim chance to get years? And are we talking about good, active months or a few decent months lounging about waiting to die?
Everyone gets to make their own decisions, but it’s important for folks to have realistic expectations.
It’s been a few years since I read the book, but from what I recall, the message was that terminally ill patients often receive bad info from doctors regarding the odds of success for long-shot treatments, or the detriment to whatever quality time they have left - or they develop their own unrealistic expectations, and doctors do a poor job of correcting them. The upshot is that it’s common for patients who sacrifice scant remaining quality time in pursuit of long-shot treatments tend to regret their decision more often than they don’t.
Surely a lot of this would depend on religious concepts as well. Someone who believed in the existence of Hell, or had at least heard of it, would face far greater trepidation on death’s door than someone who didn’t (concern over - am I really Heaven-bound…or going the other way?)
Sorrow for not being able to finish the beer your buddy is holding for you?
“And death will come to you as a mild surprise, a momentary shudder in a vacant room”.
I would think the opposite would be true. I think most theists would believe they’re bound for paradise. The average atheist on the other hand, would believe they were about to completely cease to exist.
Since we’ve gone over a week without any cites or studies found, let’s go ahead and move this to IMHO (from GQ) so that folks are free to engage in speculation and opinion. If any factual cites are later found, those are of course still welcome.
I’m not hanging out with @Qadgop_the_Mercotan, that’s for sure!
I’ve seen a couple videos where people posted their suicides by hanging on facebook live or some other social media, they just seem sort of dull and blank like an automaton. But there were a few that almost seemed gleeful or giddy, excited to finally be killing themselves I suppose.
I hate these fucking 5-minute edit windows. What I meant about “too personal” was what I wrote about my mother’s death. I didn’t mean about Being Mortal, the Atul Gawande book. It’s excellent, and I’ve read every book he’s written AFAIK, and his New Yorker articles.
I don’t know that I’d blame bad info from doctors, though. I used to say that when the oncologist tells the patient they have a 5% chance of surviving two years, their response is “What you’re saying is that we’re going to beat this, right? I have an oncologist friend that says this attitude is all too common.
And sometimes it does lead to the doctors being unrealistically optimistic in their prognosis. Because if your doctor says “You’re going to die soon and there’s nothing we can do,get your affairs in order, they go looking for a doctor that will “fight” for them.
If they are lucky that doctor will be a clinical researcher painting a rosy picture in order to enroll them in a long shot study. If they are unlucky they’ll find the scammer who will assure that they die broke.
This here atheist isn’t worried about ceasing to exist - I won’t be around to experience it anyway. What I’m worried about is getting to that point (I ain’t too fond of pain) and how the people I’d leave behind will feel (I think my mom would be unhappy to outlive me). But absent those concerns, like if I outlived everybody I know and died quietly in my sleep? That’d be perfectly fine.
And speaking of that, I strongly suspect that the dominant emotion at time of death in the majority of cases is unconsciousness.
Sure, but I think the OP is meaning when people are still conscious before they slip into unconsciousness.
Anyhow - having no data to cite, I will post some anecdata:
I have read in some nations where executions are scheduled and known long in advance, the dominant emotion is usually resignation - the inmate doesn’t put up a fight, just accepts his fate - but in some nations where death row execution dates are not known (could happen at any time,) the inmates usually exhibit great terror when they are informed that the time has come and they will die within the hour or so - will do anything to extend their life by a few minutes, whether it’s feigning need for a bathroom break or demanding a last cigarette to smoke or something; they’ll do anything to drag out their fate just a little bit longer.