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  • Published: 1 May 2013
  • ISBN: 9781742752068
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

The End

The Human Experience Of Death

A fascinating exploration of the universal human experience of death.

A fascinating exploration of the universal human experience of death.

We sat around and on the bed, laughing and joking as if this was a typical family gathering. The shrunken form of our dying grandmother lay on the bed, breathing fast and shallow, her once-bright eyes half closed and sunken in their sockets. To some it might have seemed disrespectful to be treating her as part of the furniture as she took what were her very last breaths on this earth. But to us, it seemed almost normal that we should carry on being her boisterous, jovial grandchildren, filling her ears with the sounds of normality as she slipped away.

Looking back on that experience, Bianca Nogrady realised she had so many questions. Was her grandmother in pain? Could she hear them? Did she know they were there? Was she aware of what was happening to her? What was she experiencing as the spark of life that had sustained her for 87 years finally flickered out?

We know so much about birth - generations of women have shared their experiences with their sisters, daughters and grand-daughters, medicine has exhaustively explored and documented every possible angle of birth, and it is a joyous moment that is shared with friends and family.

But at the other end of a life, death is hidden, taboo, mysterious, fearful, rarely shared and often a lonely, dark book-end. Death will come to all of us - it is one of few experiences that unites every single being on the planet. But we don’t talk about it, we try not to think about it and anyone who breaks these unspoken taboos is viewed as being unnecessarily morbid. Yet many who have been present at the death of a loved one talk of it as being a gift, they have taken part in a profound moment.

The End is an exploration of that experience, exploring the human experience of death from every angle - the spiritual, the historical, the physical, the metaphysical; from the perspective of those who have witnessed it, those who face it, and those who have somehow stepped back from it.

The End investigates an experience common to every single one of us and does so in a way that is engaging, compelling, a bit funny and a bit quirky in places, heartbreaking in others, but most of all fascinating.

The End provides a different framework through which to view death instead of the fear and mystery that so often shrouds this incredibly important moment of life.

  • Published: 1 May 2013
  • ISBN: 9781742752068
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

About the author

Bianca Nogrady

Bianca Nogrady is a freelance science journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as Scientific American, New Scientist, The Australian, Ecos, Australian Doctor, Medicine Today and on the ABC’s science and health websites.

Also by Bianca Nogrady

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Praise for The End

The End: the human experience of death is enlightening in the best possible way, about something that is such a fundamental part of life, most of us choose to avoid dwelling on it. An accomplished science journalist, Bianca Nogrady has covered every base in her investigation of the phenomena of death - philosophy, medicine, science, ethics and culture.

Helen Hayward, The Sydney Morning Herald

A treatise for anyone who has contemplated their own mortality - which must be everyone who has dawn breath.

Martin Stevenson, The Examiner

Although everyone dies, no one alive fully knows what the experience is like. Nogrady, a journalist. describes what science says about the goings-on in the mind and body at death and investigates phenomena that lack good explanations, such as seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. She also examines the politics of death such as the debate over euthenasia, as well as personal accounts of people who have had near-death experiences or have watched a loved one die. Nogrady's book offers a comprehensive reflection on everything we know - and what we can only guess - about the end.

Annie Sneed, Scientific American

Nogrady relates heart-warming stories of patients dying at home in bed, family crowded around telling stories, laughing and crying together - the way we all hope we'll go. She highlights recent changes in thinking about hospital intensive-care wards and considers the "good death" movement that aims to design the best possible circumstances for our passing: familiar surroundings, loved ones, even a sense of expectation, almost a countdown, as we control or anticipate death's approach to the extent medicine allows.

Drew Turney, The Australian

Through engaging, heartfelt anecdotes, Australian journalist Nogrady (The Sixth Wave) researched what it might be like to die—from those who have experienced it and those who have observed the experience intimately, such as caretakers. Moved by the “good” death of her grandmother Nan, comfortable and surrounded by family at her nursing home, Nogrady approached experts for explanations of the why and how of death: along the way she lists what illnesses are the top killers around the world and sifts through the contrasting definitions of death (does it occur when the heart fails, the breathing ceases, or the brain stops functioning?). From the science of the dying body Nogrady moves to “experiencing death,” such as near-death journeys, and while her evidence is more like hearsay, it is still valuable and fascinating. Throughout, Nogrady discusses what it’s like to help a dying person find a safe place and suitable time, and what observers should expect (skin sensitivity, dementia, letting go). She has produced a brave, clear-eyed work and is not afraid to join science with spirituality.

Publishers Weekly

For doctors and patients alike, this is a thought-provoking read that is sure to prove a conversation-starter about the unavoidable end.

Megan Howe, Australian Doctor

Perhaps surprisingly – and despite the subject matter – Nogrady offers an account which is seldom tragic, often amusing and endlessly fascinating: from Pacific Islanders killed by falling coconuts to those condemned to a lengthy departure by the unwanted intervention of dedicated medical workers. She reports on the successes (and failures) of palliative care and she recounts the remarkable story of Oscar, a feline harbinger of death, whose ability to discern the process of dying was recorded in the New England Journal of Medicine. Given the universal nature of the subject, anyone now alive could benefit from reading this book. But it constitutes a virtual treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom for those of us who are regularly called upon to counsel and comfort the grief-stricken and bereft. We learn why death is not always the worst thing that could happen and why bedside conversations should always be positive.

Larry Timberlake, The Celebrants Association

Nogrady has told a compelling story, taking the reader through a catalogue of dying and death, telling us the how and why. Her approach is scientific and thorough, and she discusses and explains available options, as well as religion and faith. She uses her personal experience of her grandmother’s death, and many interesting examples of other people’s experiences of death. Nogrady consults physicians and scientists in several countries, plus hospice workers, nurses and voluntary carers. She investigates world practice, reveals death in all its complications, discloses religious and spiritual beliefs, and its legal ramifications. She shows no bias and her accurate telling of assisted suicide available in Switzerland and the USA, Belgium and Luxembourg, is balanced by sections on palliative care practices and the use of sedation prior to death.

Belinda Ramsey, Dying with Dignity Victoria

The End covers the biological, spiritual and emotional aspects of death beautifully. The End was writen with a very strong sense of dignity and almost beauty.

Drew Turney, Girls and Corpses

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