Dying by sheer will alone?

  1. Last night a patient died by what I can only describe as sheer will alone. She did have cancer, and a tumor debulking, but was otherwise *medically* stable at that point. After surgery, all she would say is that she wanted to die, to anyone that would listen.
    A day later, she did.
    We had another patient that was morbidly obese. He was in for intense management of leg ulcers - again, not unstable in the least. He also one day up and decided that he'd had enough and died a day or so later.
    This fascinates me, it really does. Anyone else have similar stories?
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    About shoelace

    Joined: Jan '03; Posts: 58; Likes: 10
    CCU RN


  3. by   nursedawn67
    We have a lady (with colon CA) that has been saying goodbye to the staff and telling everyone she is ready to meet her maker for the past week. I think she is trying to die by sheer will alone, I think her surgery just made her weak enough to make her give up.
  4. by   dawngloves
    Oh I could go on and on....I have seen it very frequently. One in particular that stands out is an end stage CA pt that was in such agony he couldn't even talk to his family. I had to BEG for a MSo4 gtt for him. He was comfortable to sleep, eat and visit with his friends and family. He died the next day.
  5. by   Sleepyeyes
    Yes, I've seen this many times over the years working with the elderly.

    One I remember best was a lively bedridden LOL who "decided" when she thought she had (yet another!) URI. She said to me, "What's the point?" refused antibiotics, and died within 2 weeks.

    The weird thing was--she never even had a cough, fever, or other s/s.
  6. by   sbic56
    Willing oneself to die is very possible. When my mom had cancer, she knew she wanted to die if her quality of life was gone...she said "if I am not dead in a week, call Kevorkian." (That was her "humor" and you really had to be there). Anyway, no need to, as she died nine days later.
  7. by   deespoohbear
    I have seen this too. The most vivid case was a ninety something Amish lady who broke her hip. She stated flatly she did not want surgery. Told the doctor and her family she would die first before she was operated on. Came to the floor from the ER still adamant that she was not having surgery. Her surgery was scheduled for the next day. Later that evening she died. One of my friends from work called me at home and told me the old lady died. (Big HIPAA no-no nowadays).

    One of the cardinal rules of nursing is: If a patient tells you they are going to die....believe them....
  8. by   Flynurse
    I once heard a story about a man who use to work on the railroads (you know, BNSF or Union Pacific). He was working the graveyard shift cleaning out the refrigerated cars. He was heavily clothed for the job. While he was working in one the door shut and he couldn't get it back open.

    The temperatures in these cars reach to below zero for the frozen freight. The man must have gone out of his mind and somehow managed to write a note on the wall of the car: "Please, tell my family I love them. It is freezing in here and I won't survive the night."

    The next morning when the other workers went to load the car with freight they found the man huddled in a corner....dead. Of fright? Of pure will? All they know is that the temperature monitor said the temp never dropped below 60 degrees.

    Sounds like this should be on one of those Myth or Legend shows.
  9. by   Glad2behere
    This use to happen frequently in the Burn ICU. One I specifically remember was a 28yo house fire victim. We had her for almost 3 weeks, and was about 60% anterior burn, face, chest etc. We had her infection whipped, and she already had skin grafts that had "taken". Her lungs were healed, and she had gone through ARDS and we were telling her she was to be extubated the next day. The next day came and we did. After all the secretions were suctioned, she went into a bronchospasm, recovered from that, and we were all so thrilled to see it. She promptly sat up in bed, raised both of her dressing wrapped arms, pointed at all of us, and stated very feebly "I can't take anymore!" Fell back in bed, and crashed. We couldn't resuscitate her, and spent about 45 minutes trying.
  10. by   Paprikat
    Seen it many times in LTC. You see some that just get "fed up" and begin to will themselves to die. They are "in their right minds" and refuse meds, treatments and food.
  11. by   night owl
    Happens all the time with the elderly folk. They just seem to give up or had enough. Even in the depressed. They just aren't willing to live anymore and fade away by refusing everything needed to survive. Often they'll say, "I don't want to live like this anymore", "I can't stand it anymore" or just plain old "I want to die" Sometimes they don't have to say anything, you can just feel what they're saying.
  12. by   LilgirlRN
    Seem them will themselves to live long enough for the the family to get there too.
  13. by   cactus wren
    And have also seen many wodows or widowers die within a few months of their spouses....i think they just want to be reunited...And whenever a patient says they`re going to die...then they usually are...especially when they start telling you that their mother or is standing right next to them , and they are 89, and mom has been dead for 50 years. had one elderly friend who told me when she broke her hip(sailed through the sugery), that they were putting her in "a home" to die, I spent a long time trying to convince her it was for rehab only..it really was...she lasted 6 days at the "home", found her dead one am...Go figure
  14. by   shoelace
    I understand about people refusing to eat, etc, and end up going that way. What really surprised me about the 2 cases that I wrote about was that neither of them lasted more than a day or so after deciding to go. Starving isn't going to work that quickly. I guess in the case of the obese guy, I believe he was diabetic, so if we stopped treating his sugars, I'm positive now that that's what did him in. But the CA lady... it took her a mere 24 hours to die after she first stated it. We didn't withdraw any medications or oxygen. She was NOT malnourished, nor dehydrated. She was on dialysis and still being treated.
    It was just weird. Thanks for the stories... fascinating.