Jack Oughton and Claire King - Who Wants To Live Forever - Exploring Death

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COPING WITH OLD AGE & ILLNESS Rapid response teams are going to be the future, where the carers visit the service users only after leaving hospital. After

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  • (Clare-07039875) (Dawn-07013647) SP1S09 Intro-Science Communication Who wants to live forever? (Pippa-07031297) (Jack-07023367)

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    Who wants to live forever? Have you ever sat and wondered when, how and at what age you are going to die? Well I guess most of us have. An attempt to highlight a few issues from, getting older, prolonging life and conscious decisions on how we want to die, really brings to the fore the concept of death and immortality.

    The life expectancy of humans has been steadily increasing at a rate of 2.2 years per decade (or 5 hours a day) for the last 100 years (New Scientist, p.42). Due to advances in medical technology, quality of life and medication, prolonged life expectancy does not seem to be slowing down. Whether it is in the interest of medical science or for the interest of mankind we shall not know, both seem to work hand in hand. We also must consider the impact of longevity on the availability of resources for increasing world populations.

    COPING WITH OLD AGE & ILLNESS

    For the very young the issue of death does not really emerge, unless they experience events of death, either through their own trials of illness or other peoples. It is the older generations that think about passing on and what they will experience.

    An interview with Jennifer Andrews, recently retired home care assistant for social services after 25 years, tells us of her clients who think about their own death; how the elderly and infirm suffer quite painful and humiliating lives; living with the process of degeneration of the body and mind.

    Do you think social service facilities provide enough care?

    Everybody is assessed to their needs but due to lack of funding it is often impossible to provide full care, which is four visits per day. As most clients have to pay for their service, there is an economic limit that people can afford; often having to leave out important care needs, because they dont have the money. Therefore family have to become involved, if indeed they are able.

    Do clients talk about death and how they would like to die?

    Yes, they often say I wish I could die tomorrow, loneliness is as much a killer as a terminal illness, especially if they are in 24 hour pain. Usually it is only the face of the carer that they see and talk over their problems with. We are usually their lifeline.

    Where do you think social care will be heading in the future?

    Rapid response teams are going to be the future, where the carers visit the service users only after leaving hospital. After

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    recovery is apparent the clients are then re-assessed, care may be reduced especially where family is available to take over their care.

    As people are living longer what affect do you think it will have on family structure?

    If the family is prepared to take on care of a relative it will greatly affect family life, putting strain on relationships, finance and freedom; often breaking down a family unit. Because of the lack good of homes for the elderly, family are often pressured into taking on care full time

    How do you feel about your future now you have retired?

    Well it does worry me. I suffer from Arthritis and I hope that if I need care I will find a good carer just like I was. But I do have support from family when I need it

    Medicines have proved to be good at curing some infections or conditions, so much so that death can be postponed or eliminated in the short term (New Scientist, p.43). Unfortunately the by product of this is that people live longer into old age, when extreme degenerative diseases and the use of medicines, can cause long term suffering. Even major causes of death like a heart attack have now been changed to a lesser heart failure.

    Conditions usually thought of in the past as certain cause for death, such as diabetes, AIDS and many cancers have now become manageable disabilities (New Scientist, p.43). Aging is a fact of life and a condition that must be acknowledged. We should stop thinking about what we suffer at the end of life and find out how to cure the aging process and the ailments that come with

    it. People should be given the option to choose how and when they die.

    Many people feel they still have a lot to give to humanity, feeling their time in this world is too short and would like to live forever. Preservation of their bodies for future advances in medical technology is the only chance of living again. Some cannot wait to leave this world as they but would like to choose how they die.

    Euthanasia is a humane system of dying for human beings, usually by a self administered lethal injection. It is only considered when the person is sane and has no hope of recovery from a condition that is slowly degenerative over time, often seeming like torture to the patient. Unfortunately British Legislation states it is unlawful to take ones own life in such circumstances (EDM, BMA).

    What is death? How can we understand its processes to the body and mind?

    MISDIAGNOSIS & DEFINITION OF DEATH

    The fear of death is completely natural and valuable to have, because it is part of our fight or flight mechanism that has evolved over millions of years. Everybody is afraid of death, because our own consciousness is the only consciousness we really know; we all have trouble conceiving our own death.

    There are three different fears of death:

    The first fear is the actual process of dying; some people think that how one dies is a measure of the way in which he has lived. So a good death is an indication of a good life. We are afraid that death

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    will be painful and we will be frightened and therefore we will not die in peace and dignity.

    The second fear of death is what happens after we die. Most people believe in an afterlife. As long as they believe an afterlife will be pleasant and happy, they have nothing to fear. However if a person believes his/her afterlife is going to be painful or unpleasant; thinking he/she will be punished in some kind of hell, then there will be a fear of death.

    The third fear of death is the fear of extinction. Death as an end of all consciousness, as a blank or nothingness, is something to fear. Studies of people who are actually near death, indicates, that fear is not a reaction to impending death. People who are terminally ill go through a series of stages that can result in the acceptance of death and a peaceful expiration. People who are elderly reveal that impending death brings more depression than fear, although some elderly actually welcome death. Younger, healthier people who are further from death have a greater fear of death than people who are old and ill and closer to death. (Solve your problem).

    These three studies show how different types of people cope with death; some fear it while others accept it.

    There are many different ways of dying; the following are just a few that people might prefer.

    Drowning has a certain dark romance to it. People just slip beneath the waves. Suffocating to death in water is neither

    pretty nor painless, though surprisingly swift (New Scientist, p.54).

    Heart attack is the most common form of death. This can cause sudden pain, desperate chest-clutching and immediate collapse (New Scientist, p54).

    Fire is a long and painful death. The hot smoke burns the throat and airways, which makes it hard to breath. Burns inflict immediate and intense pain through stimulation of the pain nerves in the skin (New Scientist, p.55)

    As well as these ways of dying there is old age and terminal illness, such as cancer. People with terminal illness or people that are elderly fade away slowly. They can decide where they would like to die, or some might refer to it as, To Rest in Peace.

    A survey was carried out of ten people; they were asked where they would prefer to die.

    These are the results:

    Where do people prefer to die?

    % of people

    At home 74 In a hospice 5 In a hospital 2 No preference 19

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    Near death experiences can happen all the time and can be unexpected. For instance someone who has a heart attack can survive depending on how severe the attack is. Also many accidents such as drowning, road collision etc, can be the result of a near