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Sobriety in death and dying: a delicate balance to achieve

02 March 2023
Volume 28 · Issue 3

Dying, as a process or function in modern society, has metamorphosed over the years, partly resulting from societal changes and the individualisation of life we now live. According to Clark (2002), dying is understood as a gradual process of irreversible decline of our functionality and was once part of the whole community. This view later changed and remained the business of the family of the dying person, with the support of a family physician. However, today we see a different picture of death, with the dying person often removed from their family home and placed in an institution surrounded by strangers, with different healthcare professionals treating and caring for them.

It is crucial that we consider the needs of dying people; for example, being free from excruciating pain, avoidance of nausea and vomiting, being in the right place to die — physically and mentally. With different pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions, these aspirations can be achieved, enabling people to continue to live and die in comfort and with dignity. However, one of the most difficult balances to achieve is ensuring that treatments/interventions we prescribe can still afford the dying person awareness and sobriety. Sobriety comes with multiple nuances and defining all of them here is beyond the scope of this comment.

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