Whether we acknowledge it or not, most of us fear death. Death remains a great mystery, one of the central issues with which religion and philosophy and science have wrestled since the beginning of human history. Even though dying is a natural part of existence, American culture is unique in the extent to which death is viewed as a taboo topic. Rather than having open discussions, we tend to view death as a feared enemy that can and should be defeated by modern medicine and machines. Our language reflects this battle mentality, we say that people "combat" illnesses, or (in contrast) "fall victim" to them after a "long struggle." Euphemistic language also gives us distance from our discomfort with death. People who die are "no longer with us", have "passed", gone "to meet their Maker", “bought the farm”, “kicked the bucket", and so on.
Some of the discomfort with the death and dying process has come about because death has been removed from common experience. Typically, we no longer die at home surrounded by family and friends, but in hospitals and other health care facilities. Out of the approximately 6,500 people who die in the U.S. every day, only 1200 die at home. This lack of personal experience with death and dying only adds to our sense of trepidation and fear.
It is human nature to try to avoid things we fear. Because we are afraid, we tend to avoid thinking abou...
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