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People die as they live

On a Mother Jones blog yesterday, Keith Humphreys, PhD, a Stanford psychiatry professor, provided his take on what people are like at the end of life. He worked in hospice care for eight years and says:

One of the most reliable rules was that people died as they had lived. Happy people were happy at the end, crabby people were crabby, anxious people were anxious. The story of human personality development is largely one of continuity. Temperamental differences measured within an hour of birth predict temperament 20 years later, and people who win million dollar lotto prizes tend, within a year, to return to being precisely as happy or unhappy as they were before their big win...

Humphreys' comments were in reference to well-known writer/atheist Christopher Hitchens, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, and whether Hitchens is likely to "find religion" at the end of his life. "The best bet... for an atheist is that s/he will die an atheist," Humphreys concludes.

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