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What Does It Feel Like to Die?: Inspiring New Insights into the Experience of Dying is a surface look at what happens to our bodies and a deep look at what happens in our minds during those first moments we realize we’re going to die and in the time just before we do die.
This is the latest book in a long list of “morbid” books I’ve been reading lately. Not sure if I’ve just stumbled on these books by chance or if I’ve had some sort of subconscious morbidity pushing me towards these titles, but I’ve enjoyed every one in varying ways.
For the first twenty percent I had trouble connecting. I honestly can’t say if it was the writing, the topic, or the fact that it was on a phone. Sometimes reading on a phone makes me read faster and other times it makes me hate technology as a whole so, not much more I can say in that regard. After that, I was pulled into the ideas represented and finished the book quite quickly (after a two-week hiatus).
I think that there is a book for every situation whether that is nonfiction specifically about the topic or fiction that covers just the same feelings with fairies added in. I think this book is hugely important for anyone who is losing someone and is trying to come to terms with what the end of a life means physically and emotionally.
I learned that for the most part death is painless. First let me point out that this particular book is about actively dying in a long-term way. This isn’t a book about instantaneous death or death over a week. This is about a terminal illness that can last years with the patient and the family knowing the whole time that the end is edging its way closer with every breath. Other types of death may be painful, but the majority of deaths that take place over time are painless either because the body is shutting down or because the patient has medication to alleviate the pain.
There is an important chapter on assisted suicide. Some states do allow doctors to prescribe medicine that causes death for patients who are terminal. There is a long process involved, but many patients have gone through the whole process and taken the medicine that allowed them to choose when they were finished. The patient must wait two weeks from the time they decide to do this until the time when the process can truly begin. However, the author makes sure to point out that for most patients this is a process they have been thinking about for months if not years.
I now know that patients have the full right to stop eating and drinking until it results in death. This is referred to under the acronym VSED (Voluntary Stop Eating and Drinking). It’s not easy because patients tend to get thirsty as they get closer to death (sometimes due to medicine and sometimes due to something doctors can’t fully explain where even hydrated patients feel thirst) but also because some face a lowering of cognizance that leaves them without memory of their choice to stop eating and drinking. And even one small drink can slow the process down by weeks, whereas if the patient is able to abstain death can occur in a few days. It’s important to note that this is legal in every state. I personally agree that a person should be able to choose their time of death if they are terminal and in a declining state. Also, for those worried that starvation would be a painful way to go don’t need to worry. It is described as an overall painless process that becomes less difficult after a few hours.
This is an important book even if people only read the last part where it discusses pain and legal options for suicide. However, the rest of the book is a close look at the world that people enter into as soon as they learn they are terminal. People have to realize on their own that their lives will be over but that they aren’t over yet. In some cases people realize this multiple times during the dying process because it is too hard to hold onto the full truth at all times without become depressed.
I would recommend this for readers who have lost someone, are in the process of losing someone, or who just want to know more about the end we will all face at some point.Follow me on Instagram and Goodreads