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.

State laws vary regarding post-mortem information release and detailed conditions for notifying next of kin, but there is no uniform requirement for immediate notification after unexpected deaths.

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

It is a Process

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

Only once you’re in the middle of it do 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 had 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

Deaths are classified into multiple categories, including natural, accidental, homicidal, suicidal, and undetermined. Natural deaths are deaths from old age or sickness, while unnatural ones are those from accidents, murder, or suicide.

Doctors Cannot Always Prevent Death

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

Asking questions about healthcare and end-of-life preferences is crucial for informed decision-making and establishing trust between patients and healthcare providers.

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 have the right to make decisions about end-of-life care, including refusing or discontinuing treatments that prolong life.

Let them know that their next of kin can make these choices for them if they cannot 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, your job is 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.

See Also

Modern Healthcare Provision

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Surgeon Salary

Average Pay for Doctors

Physicians for Social Responsibility

How to Improve Private Medical Practice

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Current Version
February 3, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover

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