Here’s What You Need to Let Your Patients Know About Death

Losing a loved one is never easy. This is especially true when they die suddenly or unexpectedly. It’s an even greater shock if it happens while in the care of a physician, dentist or other health professional.

If you’re a medical professional, it’s important to know what your patients’ relatives need to know about their loved ones’ deaths — and what they don’t need to know.

Each state has its laws regarding the release of information after death, but most states require healthcare providers to notify the next of kin immediately after an unexpected death.

That said, here are some of the most important things you need to let your patients know about death.

It is a Process

The truth is that death is not a single event, but a process.

It’s only once you’re in the middle of it that you realize how complicated it is. That’s why it’s so important to encourage your patients to have conversations with their loved ones about what they want later on when they can’t speak for themselves.

When death comes, they will slip into unconsciousness. Then their breathing will stop. They won’t have any awareness of what’s happening around them.

Often the last thing they’ll hear is someone telling them it’s all right to let go. They may feel a sense of peace or even a sense of floating out of their body as if they are moving toward and through a tunnel toward a bright light.

Some people who’ve had these experiences say they felt wonderful — more peaceful and relaxed than they ever felt before.

That said, death is also an unknown experience, and so no one can say what it’s like with any certainty.

It is Classified into Two Categories

Doctors classify deaths into two categories: natural and unnatural. Natural deaths are deaths from old age or sickness, while unnatural ones are those from accidents, murder, or suicide.

Natural deaths tend to be more peaceful and less painful. But there’s a chance that your death could be peaceful even if it is unnatural.

Doctors aren’t Always Able to Save Patients’ Lives

It can be hard for doctors and families to discuss end-of-life care options openly because many people feel uncomfortable talking about death.

Often doctors may feel like it’s their job to save anyone who is dying, even if that means taking extraordinary measures that could harm or prolong the person’s suffering.

The truth is that doctors cannot save everyone; they’re often forced to make decisions between bad and worse.

It is Important to Ask Questions

Ask questions now, so when it’s time for decisions, you’re ready

Asking questions now about your health care helps build the trust that is so important between doctor and patient.

For example: -What do I need to do now to stay healthy? -How will I know if my health is getting worse? -What should I do if I’m injured in an accident? -Who should make health care decisions for me if I’m not able to make my own decisions? -How can I make sure my family understands my wishes?

This will make the transition process easier and more peaceful.

They Can Choose When to Die

Yes. Patients can decide when they want to stop eating or drinking, when they want to stop taking medication, or when they want to stop having therapy or medical procedures.

Let them know that their next of kin can make these choices for them if they are unable to do so.

It is Normal to be Afraid

It is normal for any human being to be afraid of death because after all, the uncertainty and sense of finality that comes with it are scary.

As a doctor, it is your job to let them know that the feeling is normal and try to make them as comfortable as possible about it.

Bottom Line

The process of dying can be confusing and scary, but there are things you can do to make the most of it. Hospitals and doctors are supposed to help patients prepare for death, but they often don’t take the time to explain things or ask patients what they want.

Patients have the right to know how you as a physician think they are doing, and whether they are going to get better.

They have the right to know about their options for treatment, including hospice care.

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