Death has always been part of human culture. It’s viewed in all kinds of manners, ranging from the worst enemy to a welcome liberator. In today’s society, death and the culture of death expand ever so quickly as people live longer on more advanced medicine, and thus die older and weaker. Of course, eventually everyone will face the prospect of taking their last breaths. Therefore it becomes necessary to give serious thought about how we choose to die in an intensifying plethora of options. Some believe in fighting until the disease wins with the best technology and best treatments without regard to cost. Others believe that after a certain age, or certain period of “extreme treatments”, the ill should accept their fate and die with
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Reviewing personal family stories can give an idea of the emotional weight associated with death. Among them is the story of Denise and her mother Yolanda. As a seventy-year old and lifelong smoker, Yolanda was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in 1998, and the following two-year experience effectively drained both Yolanda and her family. Yolanda went through three rounds of chemotherapy with horrible results. Among other things, she had a stroke and a heart attack that left her with heart complications even after the family agreed to stop treatments. These complications resulted in additional cardiac-related surgeries. By 2000, the family was beginning to feel burdened by the amount of care they needed to provide Yolanda who was now also experiencing frequent hallucinations. When she finally died, she was not the same person her family knew and loved. The final conscious goodbyes Denise imagined having with her mother never materialized. The way Yolanda died left her family with much unsettled, making her death seem only the more tragic (“Denise’s Story”).
In the case of someone like Yolanda, there are two distinct approaches that can be taken to make a transition to dying. The approach Denise’s family chose is most like the “fighter approach”. The family aggressively fought the disease with personal sacrifice to accommodate Yolanda, only turning to