10 People Whose Hearts Were Buried Separately From the Rest of Them


Richard the Lionheart

BY Bess Lovejoy

Though it may seem bizarre today, having your heart buried apart from the rest of your body wasn’t uncommon for European aristocracy of the Middle Ages and beyond. The practice arose in part during the Crusades, when high-ranking warriors had a tendency to die in “heathen” places that weren’t seen as desirable burial locations. But transporting a whole body back to Europe made things pretty stinky, so corpses were stripped of flesh and ferried back to Europe as skeletons, with the inner organs (including the heart) removed and buried where the Crusaders had died. By the 12th century, members of the English and French aristocracy also frequently had their hearts buried separately from the rest of them.

Heart burial became less practical and more symbolic by the 17th century, partly as a religious practice associated with the Jesuits and other Counter Reformation groups. (Some scholars think the heart’s powerful symbolism became particularly important while the Catholic Church was undergoing a moment of crisis.) In Western Europe, it became common for powerful individuals, such as kings and queens, to ask that their hearts be buried in a spot they’d favored during life. In more recent years, Romantic poets and other artists also picked up the practice, which has yet to be entirely abandoned.


Richard I, a.k.a. “Richard the Lion-Heart,” ruled as King of England 1189-99 but spent most of his reign fighting abroad, which is how he earned his reputation for military prowess. (He also may or may not have eaten the heart of a lion.) He died after being struck by a crossbow while campaigning in Chalus, France, and while most of his body was buried at Fontevraud Abbey, his heart was interred in a lead box at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Rouen, France. The organ was rediscovered during excavations in the 1830s, and in 2012, forensic scientists examined it—now mostly reduced to a grayish-brown powder—to learn more about Richard’s precise cause of death (some think a poisoned arrow dealt the fatal blow). The crumbling heart was too decayed to tell them much about how Richard had died, but the scientists did learn about medieval burial rituals, noting the use of vegetables and spices “directly inspired by the ones used for the embalming of Christ.”


Robert the Bruce, King of Scots 1306-29, asked for his heart to be buried in Jerusalem. But it didn’t get all the way there—the knight he entrusted it to, Sir James Douglas, was killed in battle with the Moors while wearing the heart in a silver case around his neck. Other knights recovered the heart from the battlefield, and brought it back to Melrose Abbey in Scotland for burial. Archeologists rediscovered what they believed to be the heart in 1920 and reburied it in a modern container; it was exhumed again in 1996, and reburied beneath the abbey’s lawn in 1998.



St. Laurence O’Toole, the second archbishop of Dublin and one of that city’s patron saints, died in 1180 in France. His heart was sent back to Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral, where it rested inside a heart-shaped wooden box within an iron cage—at least until 2012, when it was stolen. The dean of Christ Church Cathedral has speculated that the heart might have been taken by some kind of religious fanatic, since it has little economic value, and much more valuable gold and silver objects were ignored. (Weirdly, the thief, or thieves, also lit candles on one of the altars before fleeing.) The item has yet to be recovered.


The prince-bishops of Würzburg (part of modern Germany) practiced a three-part burial: their corpses were usually sent to Würzburg cathedral, their intestines to the castle church at Marienberg, and their hearts, embalmed in glass jars, to what is now Ebrach Abbey. The practice was common by the 15th century, though it may go back as far as the 12th. Their funerals at the Marienberg castle also featured what may be one of history’s worst jobs: a servant was required to hold the heads of the corpses upright during the funeral, which featured the body seated upright and impaled on a pole. The funerals lasted for several days. There were more than 80 prince-bishops; a German cardiologist who made a special study of heart burial says “about 30” of their hearts found their resting places in the abbey.


According to legend, after Anne Boleyn’s beheading in 1536, her heart was removed from her body and taken to a rural church in Erwarton, Suffolk, where the queen is said to have spent some happy days during her youth. In 1837, excavations at the church uncovered a small, heart-shaped lead casket inside a wall. The only thing inside was a handful of dust (it’s not clear whether it was actually the heart), but the casket was reburied in a vault beneath the organ, where a plaque today marks the spot.


Twenty-two hearts from various popes—from Sixtus V in 1583 to Leo XIII in 1903—are kept in marble urns at Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi in Rome. Traditionally, the hearts were removed with the rest of the organs as part of the postmortem preservation process, and kept as relics just in case the pope became a saint.


Romantic composer Frédéric Chopin died in Paris in 1849, and most of him is buried in that city’s Pere Lachaise, but he asked for his heart to be buried in his native Poland. His sister carried it back to their home country, where it is preserved in alcohol (some say cognac) within a crystal urn inside a pillar at the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw. In 2014, scientists conducted a late-night examination of the heart to make sure the alcohol hadn’t evaporated, although their secrecy frustrated scientists who hope to one day examine the organ for clues about what killed the composer.



The English poet and novelist Thomas Hardy wanted to be buried in his hometown of Stinsford, Dorset, but friends insisted that a burial in Westminster Abbey was the only appropriate choice for someone of Hardy’s literary prominence. But when town officials found out that Hardy’s body was destined for the abbey, they threw a fit, and so a compromise was reached—most of Hardy went to Westminster, but his heart was buried in Stinsford churchyard (where it has its own grave marker). A persistent, but unproven, story has it that a cat ate part of the heart when the doctor who was removing it got distracted; a gruesome addendum says the animal was killed and buried alongside the organ.


When the poet Percy Shelley died sailing the Mediterranean in 1822, local quarantine regulations dictated that his body had to be cremated on the beach. But his heart allegedly refused to burn, and a friend, the adventurer Edward Trelawny, supposedly plucked it out of the flames. After a custody battle among Shelley’s friends, the heart was given to Percy’s wife Mary, who kept it until she died. Her children found it in a silk bag inside her desk, and it is now said to be buried with her at the family vault in Bournemouth, England.


The powerful House of Habsburg practiced heart burial for centuries, with many of the organs buried in copper urns in Vienna’s Augustiner Church. In 2011, Otto von Habsburg, the last heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which was dissolved in 1918), had his heart buried in the Benedictine Abbey in Pannonhalma, Hungary. The rest of him was buried in Vienna. The erstwhile crown prince said he wanted his heart buried in Hungary as a gesture of affection for the country—one half of his former empire.

Complete Article HERE!


Researchers explore how people with Alzheimer’s disease use end-of-life medical services


Because people are now living longer and often healthier lives, the rate of some illnesses that are more likely to develop with age has risen. These illnesses include dementia. In fact, the number of us living with dementia was already 47 million worldwide in 2015. It could reach 131 million by 2050.

Dementia is a general term that includes different types of mental decline. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.

As Alzheimer’s disease worsens, older adults may become more likely to have trouble performing daily activities, can develop trouble swallowing, and may become less active. This increases the risk for other concerns like infections. These infections, such as pneumonia, can increase the risk for death. As a result, the cause of death for people living with Alzheimer’s disease is often infections or some other cause, rather than the Alzheimer’s disease itself.

A team of researchers from Belgium recently studied how people with Alzheimer’s disease use medical services during their final months. The goal was to learn more about the best ways to help older adults with dementia at the end of their lives. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers studied information from people with Alzheimer’s disease living in Belgium who died during 2012. They compared two groups of people who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

One group had death certificates that listed Alzheimer’s disease as the cause of death. This was the group who died because of Alzheimer’s disease.

The second group included individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but with death certificates that listed another cause of death (like infections). This was the group who died with Alzheimer’s disease (but not of Alzheimer’s disease).

The researchers looked at the healthcare resources the two groups used in the last six months of life.

Of the more than 11,000 people in the study, 77 percent had something other than Alzheimer’s disease listed as the cause of death on their death certificate while 22 percent died of Alzheimer’s disease. The average age of these individuals was 85, and most were women.

People who died with Alzheimer’s disease were more likely to have at least one hospital admission and more intensive care unit (ICU) stays. People in both groups had about 12 visits with a doctor during the last six months of their lives.

However, the people who died with Alzheimer’s disease received fewer palliative care services. Palliative care helps keep us comfortable when we are near death or dealing with a serious illness. This included fewer palliative home care services during the last six months of their lives. They also spent fewer days in a nursing home.

People in the study whose cause of death was listed as something other than Alzheimer’s disease were also more likely to have invasive procedures compared to people who died of Alzheimer’s disease. These invasive procedures included being put on breathing machines and being resuscitated (the medical term for reviving someone from unconsciousness or apparent death).

The researchers concluded that older adults whose cause of death was Alzheimer’s disease used fewer healthcare resources than people whose cause of death was listed as something else even though they had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers suggested that recognizing late-stage Alzheimer’s disease as an end-of-life condition could influence healthcare providers to use more palliative care resources and fewer invasive procedures.

Complete Article HERE!


Sinners, sailors and those who died by suicide: The adults buried in Ireland’s cillíní


Deprived of a Christian burial on the basis that they were unworthy, who are the adults in Ireland’s hidden graves?

Historian William Casey shows the site of a 1920 unofficial graveyard (cillín) a few miles from the village of Ballydehob in west Cork.


Across the water the odd light twinkles on Heir Island. It’s an idyllic evening and the retiring sun shoots a last glance at Jeremy Iron’s castle dressed in its unusual orange.

We’re standing by the shore at Skeaghanore West near Ballydehob. Remote and beautiful spots, just like this, are now coveted by those who seek the beauty and solitude of West Cork – but this was once a place where untold sadness lingered.

In Famine times, people from neighbouring parishes would make the long walk to this spot to gather shellfish in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Exhausted and starved, many died once here and are buried in a cillín overlooking the shore.

With local historian William Casey I attempt to get a closer look at the grave, located on a former ecclesiastical site, pulling back the thick coverage of briars and torn bushes.

“You could have hundreds of Famine victims here,” explains Casey.

“Grown men and women as well as children. This was their last attempt to live but when they lost that battle for life they’d be carried here and laid to rest, one after the other.”

Though cillíní are generally recognised as unofficial burial grounds for unbaptised children, records show that adults, such as Famine victims, were often buried in them too.

And it’s shocking to discover why so many Irish adults were deemed unworthy, by the Catholic Church and wider society, of a traditional burial down through the centuries.

Those who died by suicide, sailors, strangers, mothers who died in childbirth, criminals, murder victims, those with mental illnesses or physical deformities, people who died in a duel, excommunicates, were laid to rest in remote cilliní alongside little babies and children.

“Canon law lists ‘Those to Whom Ecclesiastical Funeral Rites Are Denied’,” explains Dr Eileen Murphy, an archaeologist at Queen’s University Belfast, who has studied cillíní closely.

She continues: “While most people buried in cilliní were unbaptised infants we also have examples of older individuals such as a pregnant woman in the cillín at Tonybaun, Co Mayo. Her skull displayed unhealed weapon injuries and I think it is the violent nature of her death that may have necessitated her burial in the cillín. We also have a newspaper account from Co Down of the body of a suicide victim who died 30-years previously and was discovered in 1842.”

Tom Cassidy, Conservation Officer with Limerick County Council, worked on an archaeological survey of Co Galway in the early 1980s.

The foreshore where people searched for shellfish near the site of a 1920 unofficial graveyard (cillín) a few miles from the village of Ballydehob in West Cork.

He says: “Galway has the highest concentration of recorded cillíní in the country. We came across a burial ground near Gort where two adults were said to have been buried. One was a British soldier who met his end during the War of Independence (from 1919 to 1921) and was buried in a cillín so his body wouldn’t be found. The other, we believe, was a man who was killed in a faction fight during a fair in the town. You could see from the stone markers that these weren’t infant’s graves.”

Incredibly some cillíní were still in use up to the early 1980s. Officially there are 1,393 cilliní in the State but most historians believe this figure is a mere fraction of the real number.

Emer Dennehy, an archaeologist now working with Transport Infrastructure Ireland, explains that in some cases mothers and babies who died in childbirth were buried together.

“In some cases it’s recorded that the baby would be buried between the mother’s legs in what were known as ‘tandem burials’. And if the mother died without being ‘churched’ (a blessing given to mothers after recovery from childbirth) then she could be buried in a cillín as well.”

Dennehy carried out one of the most detailed studies into cillíní when she surveyed the hundreds of such burial grounds in Co Kerry. She told me about the logic behind the traditions – especially as they related to suicide victims.

“The thinking which came from the church was ‘if you bury the person who died by suicide in a normal graveyard then they will contaminate it for everyone else buried there’. It was all about fear. They reckoned that only God could decide when you die so these people weren’t welcome. It was considered they, and so many others, ‘died outside the Grace of God’ and the Church completely played on this.”

Understandably, families, so desperately fearful of the stigma associated with suicide, would attempt to cover up the cause of death.

It’s believed this practice continued well into the 20th century so that a conventional burial could be granted.

For many, interment of an adult family member in a cillín was the worst shame to be endured.

Archaeologist Noel Dunne tells of “Mags Kilteel” – discovered by a passing merchant as an abandoned baby in Kildare around the 1890s, she became part of the Broderick family. But when she died, in her mid-20s, she was interred in a cillín rather than with the rest of her adopted family. Forever an outsider.

A range of unsettling practices in cillíní have been recorded. According to folklore some children were buried face down if they were handicapped or illegitimate or when childbirth almost resulted in the mother’s death.

Along the coast, sailors, and other unknown individuals washed up on the shore, were buried in cillíní. Written accounts provided by the National Folklore Collection confirm sailors were buried on the Great Blasket Islands. Similarly, we know sailors were laid to rest at a cillín in Renvyle, Co Galway, as well as in Dooks, Co Kerry, and on Heir Island.

While convicts and criminals would also have been buried in unconsecrated ground Dr Linda Lynch, an Osteoarchaeologist, explains that most would not have been buried in cillín.

“As cillíní are mainly located in rural areas, its less likely convicts would be buried there. It would be more usual for them to be buried near prisons and urban centres – in prison graveyards.”

Like this cillín in West Cork, many such graveyards across the country are left untouched by farmers and landowners who know not to encroach on these places of mass burial.

Buried, too, beneath the thorns, the gorse bushes, the long grass and the ferns are stories of unimaginable pain, suffering and tragedy.

In many cases stones mark out the dimensions of the infant’s grave but what of the larger dimensions, the last resting places of so many adults labelled inferior to those buried in graveyards.

Shunned in life and then in death.

Complete Article HERE!


Writing a ‘Last Letter’ When You’re Healthy


Participants in the Stanford Letter Project working on letters to their family members.


Over the last 15 years, as a geriatrics and palliative care doctor, I have had candid conversations with countless patients near the end of their lives. The most common emotion they express is regret: regret that they never took the time to mend broken friendships and relationships; regret that they never told their friends and family how much they care; regret that they are going to be remembered by their children as hypercritical mothers or exacting, authoritarian fathers.

And that’s why I came up with a project to encourage people to write a last letter to their loved ones. It can be done when someone is ill, but it’s really worth doing when one is still healthy, before it’s too late.

It’s a lesson I learned years ago from a memorable dying patient. He was a Marine combat veteran who had lived on a staple diet of Semper Fi and studied silence all his life. A proud and stoic man, he was admitted to the hospital for intractable pain from widely spread cancer. Every day, his wife visited him and spent many hours at his bedside watching him watch television. She explained to me that he had never been much of a talker in their 50-plus years of marriage.

But he was far more forthcoming with me, especially when it became clear that his days were numbered. He spoke of his deep regret for not having spent enough time with his wife, whom he loved very much, and of his great pride in his son, who had joined the Marines in his father’s footsteps.

One afternoon, when I mentioned these comments to his wife and son, they looked incredulously at each other and then disbelievingly at me. They thanked me for being kind but stated that my patient was incapable of expressing such sentiments.

I wanted to prove my credibility and to make sure that his wife could actually hear her husband professing his love. I knew he was unlikely to speak to them directly. So I took my huge family camcorder with me the next morning on medical rounds and – with the patient’s consent — recorded an open letter from him to his family. When I gave them the taped letter as a keepsake, both his wife and son were moved to tears.

The experience inspired an idea that has grown into the Stanford Friends and Family Letter Project. With guidance from seriously ill patients and families from various racial and ethnic groups, we developed a free template for a letter that can help people complete seven life review tasks: acknowledging important people in our lives; remembering treasured moments; apologizing to those we may have hurt; forgiving those who have hurt us; and saying “thank you,” “I love you” and “goodbye.”

A letter by a project participant named Harvey Brown, written with the help of his wife, Wanda Brown.

While these may seem intuitive, many people don’t complete these steps before they die, leaving their family members with unanswered questions and regret.

(A video showing people participating in the project can be seen here.)

The letter template, which is available in eight languages, allows writers to express gratitude, forgiveness and regret. In one letter, a participant wrote to his wife, Lily, “I wish I had loved you more.”

Many writers use the templates to express pride in their children in ways they might not do in person. One wrote to a son, Michael: “You are so courageous to change your major and do what it takes to be successful to reach your dreams.” Another wrote, “Life for us was never easy but you overcame obstacles.”

And some apologize. A man named Tyrone Scott wrote to his daughter, “I’m sorry that I wasn’t there when you were growing up. If I could relive my past, I would not have let your mother take you away from me.”

The letters can be a chance to let go of grudges. Shirley Jones wrote, “To Harold: You have forgotten to repay some of the personal loans you obtained from us. We are wiping your account cleared.”

So we invite you to use the “Dear Friends and Family” template and write your letter now while you still can.

Those with chronic or serious illness may use the illness letter template; there is also a healthy letter template for those in good health. In working with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, I found that some were reluctant to complete the “goodbye” task for fear that it might become a become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I recommend that people write only the parts they feel comfortable with.

Once the letter is written, you can choose to share it with your loved ones right away. You can also store it in a safe place or with a trusted person to be given to your family in the future. Some people prefer to use the letter as a living legacy document and update it over time.

It may take tremendous courage to write a life review letter. For some people, it evokes deep and troubling emotions. Yet it may be the most important letter you will ever write.

Complete Article HERE!


How the dead danced with the living in medieval society


Detail of figures from the Dance Macabre, Meslay-le-Grenet, from late 15th-century France.


In the Halloween season, American culture briefly participates in an ancient tradition of making the world of the dead visible to the living: Children dress as skeletons, teens go to horror movies and adults play the part of ghosts in haunted houses.

But what if the dead played a more active, more participatory role in our daily lives?

It might appear to be a strange question, but as a scholar of late medieval literature and art, I have found compelling evidence from our past that shows how the dead were well-integrated into people’s sense of community.

Ancient practices

In the medieval period, the dead were considered simply another age group. The blessed dead who were consecrated as saints became part of daily ritual life and were expected to intervene to support the community.

A funeral mass, with mourners, from a Book of Hours.

Families offered commemorative prayers to their ancestors, whose names were written in “Books of Hours,” prayer books that guided daily devotion at home. These books included a prayer cycle known as the “Office of the Dead,” which family members could perform to limit the suffering of loved ones after death.

Medieval culture also had its ghosts, which were closely linked with the theological debate concerning purgatory, the space between heaven and hell, where the dead suffered but could be relieved by the prayers of the living. Folk traditions of the dead visiting the living as ghosts were thus explained as souls pleading for the prayerful devotion of the living.

When, how practices changed

The Reformation in Europe radically changed this cultural interface with the dead. In particular, the idea of a purgatory was rejected by Protestant theologians.

While ghosts persisted in folk stories and literature, the dead were pushed from the center of religious life. In England, these changes were intensified in the period after Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church in the 1530s. Thereafter, the veneration of saints and commemorative prayers associated with purgatory were banned.

The dead were also removed from view in more literal ways: Reformation iconoclasts, who wished to purge churches of any association with Catholic practices, “whitewashed” hundreds of church interiors to cover the bold, colorful murals that decorated the medieval parish churches.

One of the more popular mural subjects that I have studied for many years was the Dance of Death: over 100 mural paintings of the theme, as well as dozens of manuscript illuminations, have been identified in England, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

Bernt Notke, Danse Macabre, Tallinn, Estonia (late 15th century).

A powerful metaphor

Dance of Death murals typically depicted decaying corpses dancing amid representative figures of late medieval society, ranked highest to lowest: a pope, an emperor, a bishop, a king, a cardinal, a knight and down to a beggar, all ambling diffidently toward their mortal end while the corpses frolic with lithe movements and gestures.

The visual alternation between dead and living created a rhythm of animation and stillness, of white and color, of life and death, evocative of fundamental human culture, founded on this interplay between the living and the dead.

When modern viewers see images like the Dance of Death, they might associate them with certain well-known but frequently misunderstood cataclysms of the European Middle Ages, like the terrible plague that swept through England and came to be known as Black Death.

My research on these images, however, reveals a more subtle and nuanced attitude toward death, beginning with the evident beauty of the murals themselves, which endow the theme with color and vitality.

The image of group dance powerfully evokes the grace and fluidity of a community’s cohesion, symbolized by the linking of hands and bodies in a chain that crosses the barrier between life and death. Dance was a powerful metaphor in medieval culture. The Dance of Death may be responding to medieval folk practices, when people came at night to dance in churchyards, and perhaps to the “dancing mania” recorded in the late 14th century, when people danced furiously until they fell to the ground. But images of dance also provoked a viewer to participate in a “virtual” experience of a community. It depicted a society collectively facing up to human mortality.

Mural of the Danse Macabre from the parish church of Kermaria-en-Isquit, France (late 15th century).

A healthy community

In analyzing the murals in their broader social context, I found that for medieval cultures, dying was a “transition,” not a rupture, that moved people from the community of the living to the dead in stages.

It was part of a larger spiritual drama that encompassed the family and the broader community. During the dying process, people gathered in groups to aid in a successful transition by offering supportive prayer.

Scenes of dying, a funeral mass, sewing the shroud, burial and comfort of the widow. In the lower margin, a group of nobles confronts a symbolic figure of death, riding a unicorn.

After death, groups prepared the corpse, sewed its shroud and transported the body to a church and then to a cemetery, where the broader community would participate in the rituals. These activities required a high degree of social cohesion to function properly. They were the metaphorical equivalent of dancing with the dead.

The Dance of Death murals thus depicted not a morbid or sick culture but a healthy community collectively facing their common destiny, even as they faced the challenge to renew by replacing the dead with the living.

Many of the murals are irretrievably lost. However, modern restoration work has managed to recover some of them. Perhaps this conservation work can serve as inspiration to recover an older model of death, dying and grief.

Acknowledging the work of the dead

Constable, bishop, squire and clerk from the Danse Macabre of the Abbey Church of La Chaise-Dieu, France.

In the modern era entire industries have emerged to whisk the dead from view and alter them to look more like the living. Once buried or cremated, the dead play a much smaller role in our social lives.

Could bringing the dead back into a central role in the community offer a healthier perspective on death for contemporary Western cultures?

That process might begin with acknowledging the dead as an ongoing part of our image of community, which is built on the work of the dead who have come before us.

Complete Article HERE!


Death Brings Wisdom to Dying Patients


By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

With terminal illness comes newfound, and profound, wisdom, researchers report.

They uncovered this silver lining of terminal illness as people in their final months tried to strike a balance between accepting their fate and making the most of the time they had left.

“The end of life presents a unique perspective,” explained senior study author Dr. Dilip Jeste, senior associate dean at the University of California, San Diego’s Center of Healthy Aging.

“This is an extremely challenging time, a confluence of learning to accept what’s happening while still striving to grow and change and live one’s remaining life as best one can,” Jeste said in a university news release. “It’s this paradox that, if embraced, can lead to even greater wisdom while confronting one’s own mortality.”

The study, funded in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, involved 21 men and women between the ages of 58 and 97 who were in the final six months of their lives and receiving hospice care. About half of the patients were dying of cancer.

The researchers asked these people opened-ended questions about wisdom, such as “How do you define wisdom?” and “What experiences have influenced your level of wisdom?” The patients were also asked if their illness had altered their understanding of wisdom. Each of the interviews was recorded, enabling the researchers to analyze and interpret the responses.

The participants ranked traits associated with wisdom. The most important quality listed was having prosocial behaviors, followed by demonstrating social decision-making, emotional regulation, openness to new experiences, awareness of uncertainty, spirituality and self-reflection, as well as having a sense of humor and being tolerant.

The patients admitted that facing their own mortality and imminent death dramatically changed how they viewed wisdom. “My perspective, my outlook on life, my outlook on everything has changed,” said one of the patients. “It’s grown tremendously.”

One common experience among the terminally ill was their desire to find peace or acceptance as their health declined and they lost their ability to function normally.

According to study first author Lori Montross-Thomas, “It wasn’t passive ‘giving up,’ but rather an active coping process. They emphasized how much they appreciated life, taking time to reflect. There was a keen sense of fully enjoying the time they had left and, in doing so, finding the beauty in everyday life.”

Montross-Thomas is assistant adjunct professor in UCSD’s department of family medicine and public health.

One study participant said: “For all my life, being a Southerner and having been in beauty contests, I got up in the morning, put my full makeup on and did my hair every day. A lady was never in her nightgown unless she was giving birth! Now all that is very, very difficult for me… I’ve accepted it, and I’ve realized that I have to let it go… I try to take all this with as much graciousness as possible and I’ve realized that my friends really don’t care that I don’t have makeup on or I’m in my nightgown. They are just happy to see me out of bed sitting on a chair.”

The patients also found that living with a fatal disease stimulated growth, leading to more determination, gratitude and optimism. The researchers noted this path to increased wisdom ebbed and flowed as the patients struggled to find balance, peace and happiness at the end of their lives.

Many patients focused on looking for the positive instead of the negative. “I want them to remember me with a smile, laughing and giggling and doing some of the silly things we do,” one person said. “Why do you want to leave on a sad note? I do not want to be remembered being sad.”

Complete Article HERE!


Researchers Use A.I. To Improve Quality Of End-Of-Life Care


By Justin Diaz

Researchers at Stanford University are using A.I. technology to improve the quality of end-of-life care for patients who may have been diagnosed as terminally ill and have been given a prognosis of having only a certain period of time to live. Essentially, the research is using deep learning to more accurately predict when a person with a terminally ill disease is going to die. As the research states, physicians can over estimate the amount of time a patient may have, which can lead to issues with the end-of-life care and the wishes of the patient. More than just using deep learning technology the researchers are also gathering information from Electronic Health Record data to help narrow down a more precise time frame for death to give a better prognosis.

The reason for this research is tied to information showing that 80 percent of patients in the U.S. who have been given a prognosis of dying soon would want to spend the time they have left at home, which would require palliative care. The research study also points out that only around 20 percent of those who wish to receive palliative care actually get it, and that a big part of that can be due to physicians overlooking certain details that could lead to allowing such care within the home as opposed to the hospital.

The research was said to be conducted with the gathered data coming from two million patient records and that using that data has allowed the researchers to create a model that is about 90 percent accurate in predicting when a patient is going to die. Reaching a mortality prediction apparently starts by ignoring the disease type, the stage of the disease, and the severity of the admission, which the deep learning model then analyzes to ultimately come to the prediction. According to the researchers at Stanford who were part of this project, some pretty powerful computing hardware was needed as the model tests were run using a computer that was outfitted with an NVIDIA TitanX GPU along with 12GB of RAM and CUDA version 8.0. While there is still more work to be done in likely getting to the accuracy rate that the researchers are hoping to achieve, this seems to be a good start in perhaps making it possible for more end-of-life patients to receive palliative care.

Complete Article HERE!