The Washington Post, October 19, 2011

We will all die, but the trajectory of our death will follow one of a few predictable patterns. According to statistics published in 2003 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, two-fifths of us will die with prolonged, dwindling illness on a slow downward slope typical of dementia or frailty. One-fifth will die with a sharp decline typical of, for example, metastatic cancer. Another fifth will die with intermittent dips, like a roller coaster, from heart or lung failure; and a small percent will die suddenly and unexpectedly, like falling off a cliff. Nearly 80% of us want to die at home, polls have shown, but most die in the hospital, often strapped to a bed in the intensive care unit.

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