April 10, 2019

He struggled to breathe, progressing from deep breaths with wet sounds reverberating in his lungs, to guppy breathing — opening the mouth like a fish, contorting the entire face. His heart rate slowly decreased, from 150 beats a minute — a pace attempting to keep up with the oxygen demands of the body — to 50 beats to 40 beats to that which is incompatible with life. The nurse pushed a tiny dose of morphine to ease the air hunger, the sensation we experience as the brain becomes deprived of oxygen.

The old man, having lived for years through the slow decline of dementia, had wanted to die at home. Even with his brain clouded by the tangled proteins of Alzheimer’s, he understood and verbalized the opini...

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