Good to know: Most people are NOT in pain when they die – experts say symptoms ease as death nears

While some people have accepted the inevitability of death, others are afraid of it because death evokes worries about pain and suffering as we go through our final moments.

Some even believe that palliative care does little to alleviate this pain and that many die extremely agonizing deaths. But according to a recent study, palliative care helps ease pain and other symptoms of people who are close to the end of their life.

An estimated 85 percent of palliative care patients show no severe symptoms when they pass away. The Australian Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration (PCOC) at the University of Wollongong presented data which revealed a “statistically significant improvement over the last decade in pain and other end-of-life symptoms.” There are various factors which prove that efficient palliative care is the reason for this significant development.

The data includes the following factors: in-depth evaluation of patient needs, effective medications, and more efficient multidisciplinary care which extends beyond nurses and healthcare professionals to allied health workers like therapists and counselors.

However, not everyone is fortunate enough to receive palliative care. In Australia, at least 160,000 individuals pass away annually. The scientists posit that at least 100,000 of these deaths could have been predicted. The PCOC adds that only 40,000 individuals have access to specialist palliative care yearly.

Meanwhile, 2,473,000 individuals die yearly in America while 525,000 people die in the U.K. Around the globe, almost 40 million people need access to palliative care, but 78 percent of them are from low and middle-income countries. A measly 14 percent of people have the privilege of palliative care services.

End-of-life symptoms

Despite the naysayers, most people with access to palliative care benefit from it greatly.

A frequent symptom that causes agony in individuals at the end of life is fatigue. Last year, 13.3 percent of patients reported feeling extreme distress caused by fatigue at the start of their palliative care followed by pain at 7.4 percent and appetite problems (7.1 percent). Fatigue and appetite that cause distress are to be expected given that people often experience a loss of energy and appetite near the end of life even though “most pain can be effectively managed.”

The closer people are to death, other health concerns such as breathing, insomnia, nausea, and bowel issues are not as common. These concerns even improve when people are in their final hours.

It looks like we have little for fear because, in their final moments, individuals feel less pain. Even their other health concerns aren’t as pronounced. (Related: Life after death is real, concludes scientific study of 2,000 patients.)

In 2016, 26 percent of patients who received palliative care reported a handful of more severe symptoms as they started palliative care which went down to 13.9 percent as they were near death. Unlike the common concern of fatigue which persisted until the end, reports of pain were uncommon.

Overall, 7.4 percent of patients reported severe pain when they started receiving palliative care. Only 2.5 percent reported severe pain in their final days. For a handful of patients, existing medications and other interventions are not enough to mitigate pain along with other symptoms.

But some patients who experience problematic pain and symptoms choose to have little or no pain relief, often due to family, personal, or religious reasons.

Data from the PCOC shows that those with access to palliative care have better pain and symptom control thanks to the availability of 24-hour care versus those who were given palliative care at home.

There is currently a national consensus statement to develop the provision of palliative care in hospitals which must be extended to death at home and death in residential care. There are also various approaches to delivery, along with resources for the provision of palliative care.

You can also consider complementary therapies for palliative care like acupuncture, homeopathy, Reiki, etc.

You can learn more about how to have peace of mind at

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