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“I’ve Watched 2,000 People Die” – Doctor Shares What They Said in Their Final Moments

By Albulena Murturi


22 January 2024

End-of-life reflections

©️ DCStudio / Frrepik / Marie Curie UK

A palliative care doctor named Sarah Wells, who is been in the game for two whole decades, shared her insights after witnessing about 2,000 people crossing over to the other side. In a chilling story, she shares the end-of-life reflections of her patients and her own. Prepare yourselves for quite a unique perspective!

Death Through the Eyes of a Palliative Doctor

In a heartfelt piece for The Telegraph, Sarah talks about how she views death as something “natural, normal, and often beautiful.” Her gig as the medical director at Marie Curie Hospice in the UK puts her in the front row for patients with terminal diagnoses. She and her team offer comfort during their last days to thousands of patients.

End-of-life reflections
©️ Freepik

According to Sarah, those final hours are not just moments of fear, but rather something “special and humbling.” Take, for instance, a lady with heart failure. She was petrified after seeing her dad go through a tough time with the same condition. Sarah and her team reassured her that the journey toward the end is generally peaceful. People just get sleepier as their organs slow down.

She shares, “When they tell me they’ve seen their mum, or a lost child, or even a pet – whether as spirits or images in their mind, it depends on their belief system, but they always find it reassuring – I know they only have hours or days left.”

Not being affected by dead bodies, she adds, “We talk to the deceased as we would when they were alive. Nurses perform the last offices and we wash and dress the deceased with the support of their family.”

To her, this is “a dignified, beautiful ritual; my sadness is accompanied by a sense of pride that we were able to play a tiny part in their lives.”

End-of-Life Reflections

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies – many folks express regret, not about spending more hours at the office, but rather about not clocking in enough family time. Sarah makes a poignant point about the futility of sacrificing family moments for professional validation. “Not one person has said they wished they spent longer in the office, and sacrificing family time in pursuit of professional validation is a source of huge sadness,” she claims

“Once people understand it takes much of the fear away, although, of course, that can’t stem a sense of regret, the biggest of which is not spending enough time with their families,” she adds.

She shared a story about a doctor regretting working through holidays and missing out on time with loved ones. “I remember a doctor – we are a tricky bunch, used to being able to sort things out ourselves – who talked of his regret at working through Christmases and putting off holidays with loved ones to devote himself to his job. ‘Looking back, it didn’t mean anything,’ he said.”

End-of-life reflections
©️ Freepik

And here’s an unexpected turn – even though Sarah isn’t religious, her gig has made her more spiritual. Patients often talk to her about seeing deceased relatives coming to them, a comforting thought for their final days. It’s these personal connections that Sarah believes truly matter.

In a closing note that hits right in the feels, Sarah shares her own end-of-life reflections. She says “I’m not scared of dying myself. I understand what’s going to happen and will make sure I am surrounded by the people I love, because above all else, this job has taught me that our connections with others are what truly matter.”

Are you spending enough time with your loved ones? If you are not, we think it’s time to change that.

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Albulena Murturi

An enthusiastic learner rediscovering the joy of writing.