End-of-Life Experiences Featured Pattern: P1407 October 2019

Author: Christian Feest (Send us feedback.)

New developments promise to give individuals greater control over how and when they die and what happens to their body after death.

The death-wellness movement (or death-positive movement)—which aims to encourage open speaking about death and death-related topics and to drive increasing diversity in end-of-life-care options—is gaining popularity across age groups, according to the Global Wellness Institute (Miami, Florida). Since 2011, nonprofit Death Cafe (Impermanence; Hertfordshire, England) has brought people together to discuss death and embrace their mortality at more than 8,000 events across 65 countries. Similarly, Death Over Dinner (RoundGlass; Bellevue, Washington) has organized more than 200,000 dinners around this theme. And the International End of Life Doula Association (Wyckoff, New Jersey) has trained more than 2,000 death doulas to help dying people find comfort and meaning during their last days.

Abstracts in this Pattern:

More controversially, Philip Nitschke—a euthanasia advocate and founder of right-to-die-advocacy group Exit International (https://exitinternational.net)—has developed the Sarco (www.exitinternational.net/sarco) 3D-printed suicide machine. Sarco is a sealed pod that fills with liquid nitrogen when the user presses a button on the inside of the pod. The liquid nitrogen lowers oxygen levels in the capsule, resulting in the unconsciousness and death of the user. Dr. Nitschke argues that Sarco will "allow rational adults the option of a peaceful, elective and lawful death in an elegant and stylish environment."

Changes in attitudes about dying also concern the disposal of human remains. For example, Recompose (Seattle, Washington) is working to commercialize the composting of human remains after governor of Washington Jay Inslee signed a bill permitting such composting in May 2019. The bill comes into effect in May 2020 and will make Washington the only US state that explicitly allows the "natural organic reduction" of human remains. Recompose claims that composting provides a more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional burials and cremations and that the soil the process creates can nourish new life after a person's death.