One Physician’s Perspective On Death And Dying

Courtesy of | By Jeena Cho | Originally Posted 06.14.2016 | Published 10.03.2017

Physicians have a unique insight into death and dying. I sat down with Dr. Crystal Moore, MD/Ph.D., to learn her perspective. Even though many physicians work with patients who are facing death, I really appreciated her perspective. She has seen first-hand patients who struggled with their own mortality and she’s also seen the aftermath of death, performing autopsy. Additionally, she has struggled with the death of her family members, her sister, her mother and her grandmother. She is a practicing physician with a specialty of anatomic and clinical pathology. She knows death firsthand—she has seen it, felt it, smelled it, dissected it.

Here’s what she knows about death and dying.

Jeena Cho: Could you share any personal experiences you’ve had with death and dying and how that’s shaped your view of end of life?

Dr. Crystal Moore: From a personal perspective, my only sibling died miserable, suffering death from ovarian cancer at the age of 43. She absolutely refused the care and relief that hospice could have provided her. As such she suffered long and died hard. And we as a family suffered along with her, watching agony. It was awful.

My mother recurred with breast cancer (she was a 15-year survivor) during the stress of my sister’s illness. She died a short two years after my sister. But my mother choose hospice care. This death was still hard on the family but at least we had the comfort, reassurance, medical aid and acceptance that hospice care provided.

My 94-year-old grandmother just died and was buried last Wednesday. Initially, my aunt refused the hospice care that my grandmother obviously needed. In the end, she relented and my grandmother had a peaceful death after a brief illness. Up until about three weeks before she died she was still living alone, driving and caring for herself. I feel she had a most ideal death after a long, healthy life.

Cho: What has your experience been with patients that are facing death?

Moore: As a physician, I have seen many untimely deaths. The hospital is filled with people who always thought it would be someone else. I have seen people weep and wail. Watched them sit vigil over loved ones who slip away from their grasp.

There are lingering deaths and shocking, sudden deaths. Reactions are varied based on relationship, temperaments, and family dynamics.

Cho: Tell me about your experience working as a medical examiner.

Moore: I have served as a medical examiner and seen sudden, shocking, violent deaths, lives stolen by murders, suicides from people succumbing to the problems they feel they can no longer face, accidental deaths that rip loved ones from the family unit. I’ve even seen a body of an individual executed by the state in the prime of his life, for what crime I do not know.


Jeena leads workshops on mindfulness, and meditation. She’s the co-author of The Anxious Lawyer. Get practical mindfulness tips delivered to your Inbox. Twitter: @jeena_cho

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