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A lingering death can sometimes be easier for those round about you, to some extent. They know what's happening, get a chance be resigned to the future, but still talk to you before the end. And if it's painful, they can feel relief that your suffering is over.

When you die quickly, you personally don't suffer, but those around you are stunned by the sudden, often unexpected loss and life. It seems cruel and arbitrary.

My mother died of a sudden heart attack at home. It was so sudden that she seemed perfectly fine that very afternoon and evening according to everyone who had seen her that day. It was a shock to hear about. On the other hand, my father died, unconscious and hospitalized, after a week of unsuccessfully trying to recover from emergency surgery after months of intensive medical treatment and going in and out of hospitals. Speaking from experience, I think a sudden death is far less cruel to your loved ones. At the very least, it doesn't require them to make tough decisions.

You never get a choice, though. Some people, like my father, survive their first heart attack with no apparent long term damage while others, like my mother, don't. Some people get cancer. Some people even get hospitalized for things that aren't life-threatening--but when something life-threatening does happen, those medical problems become obstacles to effective treatment.

It may seem counterintuitive, but I think the opposite is true. Think about it: what will people remember about you? If your death is relatively quick, the majority of their memories will be of happier times spent with you in good health. On the other hand, if you have a long, drawn-out, multi-year struggle, that will be what they remember most.

I don't have the link handy, but there was a study a while back comparing hospice care to class 3 chemo (that's the really, really poisonous bad stuff). The study found that families of those who went into hospice coped better with the loss. Furthermore, almost counterintuitively, those in hospice care actually lived longer on average. Sometimes, taking stress off the body gives it just enough room to keep fighting on its own a bit longer...

This is my experience.

I've lost friends to sudden deaths -- usually accidents. It's a bolt out of the blue, but it's over quickly and there's rarely much suffering.

I've lost family "after a long illness" as the news reports say, and the roller-coaster of misdiagnoses, initial treatments, exploratory surgeries, continued uncertainty of diagnostic monitoring and procedures, hope for treatment advances, false hope from charlatans and quacks, relapses, remissions, and the final, inevitable, unstoppable, and increasingly debilitating decline, tears people, families, and communities to pieces.

I've also seen cases where the end was known, but treatment brought, at a relatively low cost and with little dread or pain, an extra six months of a life that was happy and full of love. In that case, not so bad.

There's a difference between a quick "he was fine this morning" death and a quick "gone in two months" death. The idea of letting the disease take it's course with only comforting care gives people time to say goodbye - it's mentioned in the main article as even being able to give more quality time with loved ones.

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