“Everyone dies. We are the only animal species which understands that at some point we will die. However, in our culture death may be seen by a physician as being his failure.

We say, ‘He passed away.’ No one passes away – they die. We say, in the medical field, ‘The patient expired.’ We are a culture that avoids and denies the reality of death.

Studies show that the greatest fear of most dying patients is not that of losing their functional abilities and control, but of pain. Pain, however, is defined as physical, emotional, social and financial. All of these need to be addressed with a dying patient in order to help alleviate or lessen pain.

Unfortunately, we don’t do this. When I worked in hospice, I had a patient, Tommy, who told me that he was sure that he was dying and going to Heaven. He also said that he was sure that when I died, I would go to Heaven and then he would take me out for a lobster dinner. I have a happy memory of him because he could be open about his dying.

I think that it’s very important for those of us who are dealing with the dying process of a loved one or a friend or a patient to be emotionally available to that person and to be able to give dignity, recognition and understanding to that person.”