Ways of dying

Sanjay Nagral

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2018.081


How do we die? Is it an event or a process? Does everyone die in the same way or are there different ways of dying? Even with humankind’s claims to gigantic strides in knowledge, death still remains one of the great mysteries for the living. And that makes it the subject of profound and perennial philosophical and religious enquiry. Modern medical science, however, had no option but to engage with it in its bodily form and try to define the precise nature of the process of death. Things were rather easy when death was equal to stoppage of the heart. But inevitably, the world of medicine with its keen sense of observation and constant yearning for scientific reasoning, recognised, somewhere in the middle of the last century, that the brains of a set of individuals hooked onto support systems in intensive care units were dying first, inevitably followed by the heart after some time. The tremendous progress in the science of resuscitation, organ support and intensive care while saving many lives resulted in an increasing number of such individuals, who were soon termed “brain dead” but whose hearts were still beating. The damage to the brain was irreversible and complete and inevitably, the heart had to follow within hours, or sometimes days.

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