Death isn't failure

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Bill Keller's well-written article "Humane Departure" (Oct. 9) gave valuable insights regarding death issues.

In his book "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter," Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland, a physician, traces in history what was once thought to be the correct way to die, which essentially was concealing and sanitizing it in intensive care units and emergency rooms. Dr. Nuland says, "The good death has increasingly become a myth." He says his wish is to help fulfill the prayer of the poet Ranier Maria Rilke, "Oh Lord, give each of us his own death."

Dr. Nuland's book gives the reader information about choices that can be made that will give each of us his or her own death. He states, "Death belongs to the dying and to those who love them." He notes that even with disease, well-meaning exercises in futility should not be permitted.

I believe it is important to realize that death is not a failure. One out of one dies. Unfortunately, most of us believe we should cling to life at all costs, and despite overwhelming evidence that our loved one is dying and expresses a readiness to die, many of us do not know how to let him or her go or are even unwilling. And too many physicians still medicalize the dying process.

My husband and I both have a living will, which our primary care physician and our children have copies of, which will give us both a "humane departure" with our family, not alone in the intensive care unit with strangers. When the time comes, we will be assisted in our departure with hospice and palliative care to help us die with the dignity with which we lived. We hope to go to our graves as William Cullen Bryant suggests in his poem "Thanatopsis," "like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."

LILLIAN L. MEYERS
Bethel Park


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