Natural Death (Part II)
Previously, we discussed the issue of energy in the termination of life process. In this newsletter, I want to discuss the critical topics of nutrition and hydration. These issues are greatly misunderstood by much of the public based on the fact we aren’t aware of the ramifications of Natural Death.
In a 60 Minute airing several years ago, it was reported that medical procedures and various testing on dying patients cost Medicare billions of dollars annually. These costs could be re-directed toward research to have a dramatic impact on curing deadly diseases. The culprit in this huge waste of Medicare funds were usually the children of elderly parents who either had a terminal illness or were days or weeks from a natural death. In other words, “Keep them alive at all costs,” was the
objective. What these uninformed children did not know or realize is that they were only prolonging the process of death at an enormous financial cost to our country.
What we all must accept is that death is part of the living process. Human bodies, over the years, deteriorate with time — this is a certainty. Additionally, our bodies are naturally programmed to prepare us for the death process.
For terminal patients, the loss of appetite is normal and natural. A loss of appetite results in weight loss which is concerning for loved ones. They feel that they are accomplices in starving the terminal patient to death. “One more bite,” or, “Have that nice milkshake,” can be agonizing to the patient who no longer cares for hardly any food, much less gourmet or rich tasting meals.
“Lack of eating is not the cause of dying — it is a symptom of dying” (Dying To Know, page 26). Eating more by a terminal patient can actually cause them to feel worse. Of course if nausea, pain, depression, mouth sores are causing the loss of appetite, this problem should be reported to the treating physician.
For cancer patients, a chemical is released in the body that blocks the patient’s desire to eat which is a process that keeps the patient comfortable. “Your body knows that there is one type of cell that will continue to feed if you eat and store fat and protein — the cancer cell. If we feed the cancer cell it will continue to grow and enlarge causing more discomfort. You and your body don’t want that” (Dying To Know, page 27).
Another line of defense the body allows for in reduced eating is the process of Ketosis. This stimulates a release of natural endorphins which promotes a sense of well being.
Only consider Artificial Nutrition (A.N.) for the terminal or elderly patient if they are hungry and have some obstruction to swallowing. But if the patient has waning hunger urges and weight loss is due to a debilitating event or illness like a stroke or Alzheimers, tube-feeding “not only does not prolong life but in many cases actually hastens death due to the complications of this intervention”
(Dying To Know, page 27). Additionally, risks of aspiration, pneumonia and complications due to immobility increases as a result of A.N. Remember, loss of appetite is a natural body process as the gastrointestinal slows down and is less efficient. It is part of the Natural Death. Excerpts from Dying To Know by Tani Bahti, RN, experienced hospice nurse.