When journalist Elizabeth Simpson's 88-year-old father passed away, she wrote his obituary and found herself penning the phrase "died peacefully in his sleep." Those five words set her on an investigation to understand what it really means to "die peacefully." Her touching and fascinating article in The Virginian-Pilot posts two questions:
What is it you die of when you don't wake up in the morning?
And, is it the peaceful death everyone assumes? No one was reporting from the other side, so I turned to the living.
To get her answers, Simpson interviewed a coroner, an emergency medicine doctor and even other journalists. Here's a sample of what she found:
In an email, Dr. Simone Gold, a California ER doc who did her internship at Eastern Virginia Medical School, wrote:
"If a patient simply dies, without any symptoms, which of course we don't know unless it is witnessed, but when that is what occurs, absolutely and without question the most common reason would be a cardiac arrhythmia, specifically ventricular fibrillation or pulse-less ventricular tachycardia. If you have to die, this is a great way to go."
The rest of the article is a similarly captivating look at a handful of words that are frequently uttered, but not often fully understood.