While Native Americans and Buddhists are amongst those most accepting of death, Americans try to avoid it as long as possible. Who can forget the sad case of Terri Schiavo, who was in a vegetative state for 15 years, during which time her husband battled her parents on whether her feeding tube should be removed? Even then President George W. Bush got involved in the controversy that made international news. She had no living will to specify her wishes. Fifty-eight percent of American adults don’t have a will, according to a 2008 survey byFindLaw.com. The touchy subject of death could be one of the reasons why.
One of the interesting questions Dr. Veronica asks is why is it that religious people always talk and sing about heaven and how wonderful it is yet are in no rush to get there and sometimes would rather remain on life support than go? “We are spending most of our healthcare dollars in the last six months of life,” she says. “How much sense does that make?”
However, Bahti says the good news is death is being talked about more. Not that the attitude has changed much.
“People are still fearful because it still has not been taught adequately in the medical and nursing schools, although that’s beginning to change,” says Bahti, a RN since 1976 who has spent over half her career in the field of hospice and palliative care. “A lot of the practitioners out there did not have the opportunity, nor did I while I was going through training.”
With all of the technological advances, it’s natural to ask is there anything else that can help prolong life. Bahti, who authored Dying to Know—Straight Talk about Death & Dying, talks to patients about the benefits and burden of treatment and how disease changes a body. She tries to paint a picture by using simple words to limit fear.
“In my experience, when people actually understand how the body changes through disease and end of life, it’s “Oh, I get it! So why would I want to put myself through this or that?’ Simply offering treatment is no longer the gold standard because we know that more treatment and more technological treatment at end of life does not translate into the best care. It’s the most expensive care and probably the most uncomfortable end of life experience that people can have when they’re suffering side effects of those treatments as opposed to being comfortable at home.”
Her website www.PassagesEducation.org is full of useful information, including common fears people have about dying, questions patients should ask their physicians and ask themselves and family members when making treatment decisions.
“ ‘If I had only known,’ is a very painful statement I hear way too often,” she says. “We don’t give people enough information when making some very difficult decisions. Nobody wants to live with regret of “I stopped so soon” but too many people live with regret of ‘Oh my gosh, we treated way too long.’ ”
Quoting Petrarch, she says, “A good death does honor to a whole life.”
The fear of burning in hell makes people afraid to die. That’s why Dr. Purcell, an Ordained Christian Minister and Board Certified Chaplain with Master of Arts Degree in Counseling, a Master of Divinity Degree in Biblical Studies, and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree, calls “spiritual terrorism” the most extreme form of “spiritual abuse.” He started using these terms back in the 1990s, not to be provocative or inflammatory but descriptive.
“People who are spiritually abused or terrorized have been taught very negative conceptions of God,” says Dr. Purcell, who has over 40 years of ministry in counseling and provides spiritual care at the end of life for hospice patients. “Though they’re told that God is a loving god and his love is unconditional and everlasting, yet God is characterized in a way that depicts God as being worst than the worst in humanity to the extreme.”
He gives the example of people being told that God’s love is unconditional and that His mercy is infinite. Looking at the idea of infinite mercy and eternal punishment, people are told unless they accept Christ and do x, y and z in this life then they are going to burn in literal hell fire forever by this God who is infinitely merciful.
“That’s an oxymoron,” Dr. Purcell says. “It makes absolutely no sense.”
Maybe rather than being afraid of dying, Americans should work more on being unafraid of living.
Dr. Veronica Anderson is an MD, Functional Medicine practitioner, Homeopath. and Medical Intuitive. As a national speaker and designer of the Functional Fix and Rejuvenation Journey programs, she helps people who feel like their doctors have failed them. She advocates science-based natural, holistic, and complementary treatments to address the root cause of disease. Dr. Veronica is a highly-sought guest on national television and syndicated radio and hosts her own radio show, Wellness for the REAL World, on FOX Sports 920 AM “the Jersey” on Mondays at 7:00 pm ET.
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