Please let me die

OK, you caught me. I am mortal. After four score or so years, my body will fail and I will live no longer. Dust to dust. Not thrilled, but I expect most of you are the same. I have but two final requests. Let me end my life in peace, surrounded by family. Second, please, do not let me “pass”… I really want to die.

Like you, I have struggled through life and given my all. I deserve a final award. I do not want to “pass” like a “C” on the test. I want a better grade. I hope my end does not come whisking by another vehicle on the highway, giving meaning to “passing lane.” While I enjoy football, I get the willies thinking that in my final moment I will be tossed down the gridiron. Moreover, I do not wish to end, delivered like a kidney stone.  I do not want to pass. Let me die.

I feel sorry for sardines. Their death is scheduled. If you check the fine print on the can, there it is, the expiration date. I worried not long ago, because many people at the hospital were expiring. I thought there was a wave of manufacturer recalls. I checked my whole body in the mirror looking for that fatal number. Perhaps, I was about to come to an untimely end. Please do not let me expire. I want to die.

I shudder to think the effect on a five year old, told that her grandfather is just “taking his last sleep.” She may need sedatives or therapy the rest of her life.

The intensive care unit called the other night. One of my patients had a cardiac arrest and a Code Blue was called. A team of 11 doctors, and nurses worked for 43 minutes. The resident regretted to inform me after that gallant effort that they had “lost him.” I was shocked. How was that possible? I suspect he was taken with the used linen. I suggested checking the laundry bins. When I informed the family he was misplaced, they seemed distressed.  Please, I want to die.

At the end of my life I do not want to croak, pop my clogs, cross the Stygian ferry, go belly up, conk, drop off, fizzle out, finish, yield the ghost, go the way of the flesh, flame out, buy the farm, graver, dodo, join the majority, hop the twig, crap out, put on the pine box, fade, perish, shuffle off this mortal coil, peg out, pass in my chips, snuff it or kick the proverbial bucket.

Oh, and I definitely do not want to depart. Watch me during the funeral service. There is an infinitesimal chance that I will get up and leave the room. Allow me to die.

This one final absolute event deserves its own word. That clarity helps us face the harsh fact that corporeal life ends. To soften or blur that statement is to deny part of life itself. To manipulate truth is confusing and makes decisions hard. We cannot cope when we deny. In order to live well, we must understand life on Earth is finite. There is freedom in that knowledge.

When my life approaches its end, grant me dignity, respect and reward. I want to live. Therefore, let me die.


  • lyn hobart
    Said so well, so much insight.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Thank you. Sometimes simplicity gives clarity. jcs
  • Alyce J. Kowal
    Using obscure or "Occluded" terms I think is meant to ease the sufferings of those that are close, but dying is simpler, and more profound. Liked your posting very much.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      I wonder if sometimes when we try to ease suffering, we inhibit healing. jcs
  • Elaine Esler
    Thank you for a great post, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that has looked for that elusive expiration date!
    • James Salwitz, MD
      It certainly would make telling prognosis a whole lot easier. Thanks, jcs
  • I just came across your site, and I am SO happy I found it. This was a wonderful post. As an oncologist myself, I'm often puzzled why we don't use the actual words - DIE, DEATH, DYING. Certainly, *not* using the words won't make reality go away.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Thanks very much. Perhaps it is my simple view of life, but it seems to me that clarity of language helps understanding. jcs

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