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Editor's Correspondence
December 13, 2004

Good and Bad Dying: Armed Forces Physician Perspectives

Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(22):2500-2509. doi:10.1001/archinte.164.22.2502-b

We offer the following comments on the excellent article by Vig and Pearlman.1 This was a study of a small number of terminally ill patients. All the patients were male veterans with a mean age of 71 years. Veterans have lived under different conditions and have perceived death from close quarters many times. Their attitudes toward life and death get modified.2,3 We are ourselves armed forces medical personnel and future veterans. Based on our personal experiences, we take the liberty of stating that frequent exposure to death on a regular basis tends to somewhat desensitize soldiers. Attitudes toward life and death are also bound to be different at various ages.4 Senior citizens are experienced, mature (with some exceptions), wise, and more scarred by the day-to-day battles of life. This study brings out that clinicians should endeavor to find out what suffering means to the dying patient, and they should help the patient in avoiding those situations. Health care workers need to respect the dignity of a dying patient.5