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Going to Meet Death: The Art of Dying in the First Part of the Twenty-First Century

I have talked with many different groups about the end of life—health professionals, church and civic groups, ministers and chaplains, adult continuing education groups, AARP chapters, and college students. I talk a little about the traditional fear that death will come too soon. Then I ask, “How many of you are afraid that death will come too late for you?” The result is always the same: about half the audience members raise their hands. Obviously, this fear is widespread and close to the surface. Subsequent discussion reveals that for many of them, too late is not restricted to conditions of chronic or terminal illness, but also can include situations where they are lucid and free of significant pain or illness, yet nevertheless believe they have reached a good time to die. This article is an attempt to give voice to their conviction that death may often be worth pursuing.

I have talked with many different groups about the end of life—health professionals, church and civic groups, ministers and chaplains, adult continuing education groups, AARP chapters, and college students. I talk a little about the traditional fear that death will come too soon. Then I ask, “How many of you are afraid that death will come too late for you?” The result is always the same: about half the audience members raise their hands. Obviously, this fear is widespread and close to the surface. Subsequent discussion reveals that for many of them, too late is not restricted to conditions of chronic or terminal illness, but also can include situations where they are lucid and free of significant pain or illness, yet nevertheless believe they have reached a good time to die. This article is an attempt to give voice to their conviction that death may often be worth pursuing.

John Hardwig, "Going to Meet Death: The Art of Dying in the First Part of the Twenty-First Century," Hastings Center Report 39 no. 4 (2009): 37-45. 
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