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Death and Dying - The Nature Of Dying

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The Nature of Dying

Because of the many advances in modern medicine, the nature of death and dying has changed greatly in the past several centuries. A majority of people in industrial societies such as the United States no longer perish, as they once did, from infectious or parasitic diseases. Instead, life expectancies range above 70 years and the major causes of mortality are illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Medicine is able to prolong life by many means, including artificial circulatory and respiratory systems, intravenous feeding and hydration, chemotherapy, and antibiotics.

The cultural circumstances of death have changed as well. A study published by the American Lung Association in the late 1990s, indicated that 90 percent of patients who are in intensive care units of hospitals die as a result of surrogates and physicians deciding together to withhold life-sustaining medical care. This rate doubled from earlier in the decade.

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