When most of us imagine the very last day of our lives — if we think about it at all — we probably picture an ideal scene of passing away peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones.
Unfortunately, that scenario just doesn't happen very often. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that 72 percent of people in the general population die while inside a medical facility.
Still, the study reveals that one profession is significantly more likely than the rest of us to pass away at home: those who have spent most of their lives inside a hospital.
After analyzing over 400,000 deaths, NYU researchers discovered that just 63 percent of doctors died in a hospital or nursing home (compared to the overall rate of 72). And those who weren't physicians but who worked in health care were also less likely to pass away in a medical setting, at around 65 percent.
The study didn't dive into why those who had spent their lives in health care were more likely to stay home and avoid the hospital at the end.
But it could be because doctors have seen that medical treatments at the end of life are often too aggressive, unnecessary or miss the point. It's a topic more and more doctors are starting to address lately, including in two best-selling books, Paul Kalanithi's recent When Breath Becomes Air and Atul Gawande's Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters In the End.
Dr. Joel Kahn, a cardiologist and frequent mindbodygreen contributor, isn't surprised by the study's results. "Doctors are aware that end-of-life treatments rarely add quality or dignity to life and may just extend survival a few hours, days or weeks at enormous emotional and economic cost to all," he says. "When my time comes — if I can orchestrate it — I'll be with my family and dogs, listening to Bruce Springsteen croon "Glory Days," sipping an almond milk cacao smoothie and writing my last article for mindbodygreen about the role of lifestyle in the male sexual response."
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