Why do I say “Dying is not a Medical Event?”

First let’s clarify the word dying. Aside from the fact that we are all dying a bit with every breath we take, that life is a terminal illness, there comes a time when the body’s breathing, functioning ends.

The above is the time I am referring to when I say dying is not a medical event. It is the days to hours before death actually arrives. 

The months before death and the weeks of labor before death is when the body is approaching death but not actually dying. I know: semantics, but some people are wondering.

In the months and weeks before death, medical intervention and medical tools are an active part of care. Pain management, skin care, mouth care, and bowel and urine care are all a medical part of the care needed. Doctors and nurses play an active role in this care. 

If there is pain (not all diseases cause pain), then pain management will be a big part of physical and medical care. Nurses and physicians will assess and manage symptoms as part of their medical care. Skin care and mouth care gets medical attention. 

It is in the days and hours before death that care shifts. Care becomes communal, interactive, guidance centered. You don’t need a doctor or a nurse. Medical care is not the issue. Supportive care is what is needed. Care for the watchers

The person who is actively dying is so removed from their body that there isn’t much doctors and nurses can do for or with them. The person is in the last throngs of the labor to leave this world. They are giving the “final push” to leave their body. Only they can do that.

At this important time you need someone knowledgeable in the dying process. A person who understands what this releasing moment is about. A person that can guide those present. A person who can address the fear the watchers are experiencing. Who can neutralize the fear. A person that can be a “conductor” of those present to help them have a sacred experience with their special person’s last moment.

This is what end of life support and guidance is about. Not the medical but the communal, supportive, knowledgeable guidance.

Something More...  about Why do I say “Dying is not a Medical Event?”

On part 2 of my comprehensive 3 hour video, THIS IS HOW PEOPLE DIE, I talk about how to "conduct" the last hours before death with the family.  


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Linda Newman

I have a # of your brochures and love your emails. I wonder if you can answer a question for me regarding when my Mother (with Alzheimer’s Disease) was dying in a nursing home. She was unresponsive other than when a nurse tried oral care. Mom clamped down on the stick. Also, when she was turned to clean her raw skim she yelped. Was she conscious? Semi-conscious? She only moved herself to lift off her gown. I’ve always been so curious. Any insight is appreciated. Thank you.
BK Books replied:
Hi Linda, about your mom, With dementia is it difficult to really put a word to actions and reactions. Maybe it was the physical interaction that triggered a physical response. Blessings! Barbara

Deborah Roberts

Beautifully expressed, Barbara. Your experience speaks wise volumes!
BK Books replied:
Deborah, thank you for your kind words. Blessings! Barbara

Maureen Kures

Barbara, I always appreciate how you so eloquently impart your knowledge. This is a powerful message for families and caregivers to hear. Thank you!
BK Books replied:
Hi Maureen, you’re right. people need to know this information. Thank you for the affirmation. Blessings! Barbara


This was so beautiful. Thank you for these wise words.
BK Books replied:
Mindia, you are welcome. Blessings! Barbara

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