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January 20, 1975

Dying Is Worked to Death-Reply

JAMA. 1975;231(3):247. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03240150010009

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In reply:  Words are abstractions; death is the most real of all realities. No amount of verbal reassurance, unless it brings hope of life or afterlife, can comfort a mother whose child is about to die or a patient who faces a certain death. When a psychiatrist helps dispel anxieties in a coronary care unit, he does so precisely because he focuses on life not death.Without denying the need for tact and sympathy, limited as their effectiveness may be, we must realize that they stem from genuine concern—a feeling that cannot be acquired by listening to lectures or wading through the vast literature dedicated to Thanatos.