What people actually say before they die

Deathbed aphorisms and declarations of love for one’s country are exceptions or inventions. According to one doctor, the last words of the dying are often strings of curses; a hospice nurse says that most dying men call for ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mama’, if they can call at all. “At the end of life, the majority of interactions will be non-verbal as the body shuts down and the person lacks the physical strength for long utterances. People will whisper, and they’ll be brief, single words — that’s all they have energy for.”

Here is the article by Michael Erard at The Atlantic, via The Browser.


Allowing self-chosen pentobarbital deaths would be a more dignified and humane solution - if it weren't restricted by governments. Maybe you should shift your political indifference curves accordingly.

Yeah, I used to be against the death penalty too, but I've changed my mind. It can be justified.

'It can be justified.'

As long as one accepts that innocent people will be executed. And recognizing that there is no way to apologize to an innocent executed person, rare as such executions are.

Or, to avoid that problem, you only execute the undoubtedly guilty, thus creating two different punishments for the same criminal act is dependent not on the act, but on one whether some one can be judged undoubtedly guilty.

I do not oppose the death penalty, but to deny that innocent people are executed is moral cowardice. Those who advocate for the death penalty generally gloss over the reality that their advocacy will lead to the death of innocent people, though in admittedly (hopefully very) small numbers in a well run justice system

How many innocent people are or would be killed if we had a viable death penalty? Then, how many innocent people are killed because we don't have a death penalty? It is not uncommon for convicted murderers to eventually get out of jail and commit murder. The only thing we know for sure is that a convicted murder who is executed does not kill another innocent person,,, ever.

I'm "for" the death penalty in any intentional (criminal) taking of life. I'd include in this intentional negligence, such as drunk driving. Of course, this would result in many more hit and runs, but in the increasingly heavy surveillance state, that will become more and more difficult. I think a new level of guilt, call it capital guilt is required since the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard is *proven* to have extremely high false positive errors. I'd guess it would require two juries. One to find "beyond a reasonable doubt" and that followed by the other to find "capital guilt". Circumstantial evidence wouldn't be enough for the 2nd.
But I'm no scholar of the system, so I could be barking up the wrong tree. As it now stands in the USA, I'm against the death penalty...until the errors of inclusion are reduced to less than 1 in 100,000.

Here are some steps for better accuracy of trial results:

1. Speedy trial.
2. Sequester all witnesses (may include policemen) until trial is finished.
3. All physical evidence collected must be continuously filmed, and never be in the possession of a single policeman, as current chain of custody procedures requires more trust than seems warranted.
4. The truth-worthiness of witnesses must be graded on a continuous numerical scale.

5. Stupid jurors should not be allowed.

Of course, in practice this would mean a theft suspect gets an instant trial, a murder suspect would get sentenced same week.

I have a better idea that's just as plausible as your plan: just ask God if the suspect did it. Or have Wonder Woman use her truth lasso.

Perhaps these ideas are not realistic, however having a trial where someones freedom depends on a witness' recollection one year after an event is not a recipe for justice.

"I do not oppose the death penalty, but to deny that innocent people are executed is moral cowardice."

I didn't deny that. Innocent people also spend life in prison. Innocent people die on the street because a prison transport runs over them by accident. Innocent people always get harmed, whenever anyone does something. It's a matter of probability and intent.

It's not curious, it's politics and the absence of rational discourse. It's far harder to disprove an outrageous lie than it is to mutter one.

Government is a less effective way to get things done than shoelaces 🤔

The drugs used for painless death often cause involuntary muscle spasms for an extended period. In the context of an execution, this often makes the audience feel bad about having wanted to come watch another human being be murdered in front of them. The complicated drug combinations used for execution are really about making sure the subject remains perfectly still because the state prioritizes making it painless for the audience above making it painless for the person being executed.

Helium asphyxiation is very sedate and effective, not sure why it isn’t used more.

Gas chambers were seen as being unnecessarily risky to bystanders in the event of a mechanical failure.

Chambers never made sense. You could just use a mask.

That said, abolish the penalty.

Nitrogen wouldn't do as well? (and at a far smaller cost) US national reserves of helium are near record lows, last I heard (a year or two ago).

Helium reserves are for pure Helium needed for medical grade applications. Part balloon purity is well stocked and likely to continue to remain so for quite some time.

How expensive would it be to fly the person to be killed to a high altitude without an oxygen source and then come back when they have died. That could be sent via video to the audience at the prison. For that matter you could probably use some kind of tethered balloon -- but I suppose risks of the tether coming loose is probably a showstopper there.

What not just give them overdoses of heroin or some other opiate?
Since I'm not willing to try heroin while I'm healthy and have a lot of years ahead (cause I don't want to become a junkie), I imaging trying heroin might be a good last experience before dying.

As a practical matter, it's easy enough to determine a combination of drugs to bring about a painless execution. The political difficulty is that death penalty opponents agitate to make those drugs difficult to buy, gambling hideously that driving up the level of cruelty and pain associated with an execution will cause public support for the death penalty to wane.

'that death penalty opponents agitate to make those drugs difficult to buy'

It is even worse than that - the manufacturers forbid their products from being used to execute prisoners. 'Fresenius Kabi said that the state may have illegally obtained the drugs because the company opposes the use of its products in executions. The company has all those who buy its drugs sign an agreement that they will not sell them to correctional institutions.' https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/08/09/nebraskas-first-ever-lethal-injection-may-be-halted-after-a-german-drugmaker-files-a-lawsuit/??noredirect=on

But really, why care about such agreements when there are prisoners to be executed? And obviously, why should a German manufacturer care about its products being used to kill those the state has deemed to have lost the right to live, right?

For all that I police your trolling, I appreciate your agreeing with me and expanding on my point. Really, who could imagine that a German drugmaker could be capable of cruelty?

"And obviously, why should a German manufacturer care about its products being used to kill those the state has deemed to have lost the right to live, right?"

Germany sells weapons of modern warfare to dictatorships who are known to murder innocent civilians, such as Mohammed bin Salman. Now you expect us to give German pharma companies the moral high ground because they forbid that their products be used to execute proven serial killers and child murderers?

But you know what, at least the company owns the product. It's even more cynical when government ban the voluntary sale to people who want to use it for their own suicide, even when the company would be okay with that. Of course, Germany routinely does that too because "life is sacred". Unending hypocrisy.

Oh please. I treat suicides, there is no "dignified" method.

Further, I also treat the patients with diminished capacity too terrified of euthanasia to receive palliative care or even curative care. Far too many patients already believe that doctors will kill them because we euthanize undesirables. This racks up massive costs. After all, depot anti-psychotics are pennies on the dollar compared to involuntary psychiatric commitment; yet I have had many schizophrenics refuse treatment because they believed I might kill them. So you, the taxpayer, spent tens of thousands of dollars doing things the hard way.

And, unfortunately, it is not like their fears are unfounded. Every legal limitation to euthanasia has been routinely flouted. No pediatric euthanasia - well somehow we had the full Groningen Protocol being published and followed to euthanize kids when it was completely illegal. No euthanasia of the unwilling? We have had families told to restrain their loved ones so they won't be able to struggle too much while being killed. No killing of the mentally disabled? No euthanasia of the non-terminally ill? Independent evaluations? Come on, all of these were violated.

The single biggest impact of legalizing euthanasia is not going to be particularly large for anyone who wants to die, particularly as travelling is a cost-effective option for most. They will be utterly life changing for delusional patients with diminished capacity. They will be massively bad for the public purse.

Letting rich, powerful, and educated people feel so slight delusion of control vs condemning the poor and powerless to facing yet another barrier to healthcare and costing a fortune to boot.

Not exactly a close call in my book. But then I value things like full patient autonomy, being able to make unhindered choices about your life, and giving people chances to thrive.

Sure, you're usually much better than this. Please clarify.

Delusional patients seize upon news and "grape vine" information that informs the content of their delusions. This content can be detrimental to varying degrees; some delusions (e.g. that believing that "Paul is dead") are mostly harmless both to the patient and society. Others are very dangerous and costly (e.g. your doctor will kill you).

Whenever euthanasia makes a big splash, we see an increase in the number of patients with delusional content related to distrusting doctors (e.g. belief that because some jurisdiction legalized it we now intend to forcibly euthanize all the homeless). They decrease their already compromised healthcare access. We see increases in communicable diseases and decreases in medication compliance. When they do come in (e.g. brought by police), we legally cannot treat them until they completely lose competency.

This means, for example, that homeless person who had 50/50 odds of getting an antibiotic injection and being cured now is too paranoid of docs to get the antibiotics when the police note they have fever while removing them from private property. Instead we have to send them out untreated. They come back later, with florid sepsis. Now they have lost capacity so we are required by law (EMTALA) to treat them. This often involves ICU care. Call it a week @ $3000/day. Something that could have been fixed for about $20 now costs society $20000. Oh and there is a decent chance the patient will die. Worse they have infected a bunch more homeless people and with sustained transmission among populations with highly intermittent care and poor compliance ... which is basically a cookbook recipe for breeding highly resistant pathogens that may spark an epidemic or even pandemic.

Whenever we have debates, votes, or anything else regarding euthanasia, people with tenuous holds on reality get spooked. Some of them die. All of them cost society more money.

Further, to some degree the schizophrenics are right. The Netherlands passed laws with firm boundaries. They were being publicly violated shortly thereafter. They violated them to euthanize minors (explicitly forbidden), to euthanize resisting patients (explicitly forbidden), to euthanize without the actual stated independent review (explicitly forbidden). Some people would be quite fine with euthanizing the homeless; Peter Singer, for instance was the Australian Humanist of the year and happens to advocate non-voluntary euthanasia in some circumstances. Whatever the law says, docs will push a bit past it. It is literally what has happened every single time we have changed the euthanasia laws.

So what's on the other side of the ledger? Wealthy, powerful, highly educated people do not have to put forth trivial amounts of effort to kill themselves. I mean we live in a country awash with firearms and shut-gun blast to the base of the skull costs maybe $400 dollars and has been 100% reliable in my experience (and I see only the ones with the highest odds of living). Helium can be purchased easily and asphyxiation is far less messy. And if all else fails, you merely have to spring for a one-ticket to a jurisdiction where either euthanasia is legal or where they have loose controls on barbiturates. At most, people save a few grand. Oh yes, and doctors who think that their calling is relieving suffering by killing people don't have to fear medical investigations.

The autonomy gain from suicide is, in practice, negligible. If you really want to kill yourself it is exceedingly easy to manage. The societal cost is high, but hidden (like much of these debates, the biggest impacts are felt in the tail end of the distribution) with legalization. So on net, euthanasia appears to decrease people's autonomy. The handful of people who get save a few bucks and spend a few more days living are completely and overwhelmingly offset by the many individuals who will get sick for months or years who would otherwise not have caught a communicable disease. Depending on how you want to weight low odds, but catastrophic outcomes (e.g. massively resistant pandemic), legalizing euthanasia could average out to a few planeloads of people being killed against their will every year.

So no, euthanasia is yet another instance of the elite of the world putting their petty desires above those at the very bottom. I cannot and shall not countenance consigning the sick, helpless, and powerless to die just because a more intelligent and cognizant individual does not want to be inconvenienced.

Sure, considering your entire profession is socially parasitic, I won't even dignify this propaganda garbage with an in-depth response. You bleed out society with forced insurance and nonconsensual "treatments", all while lobbying for bans against our self-determination, and you expect people to *trust* you?? Is that a joke??

I want nothing to do with your parasitic profession. I just want to buy the pentobarbital for myself. When I wrote "allow", I wasn't talking about asking *you* parasites for permission. I was talking about forcing governments to stop banning the free market. I want nothing to do with you, or any of your parasitic colleagues. As far as I'm concerned, you're purely enemies worth harming.

I have more than one patient with a below average IQ and serious medical issues procure barbituates in Mexico; were they just unusually lucky?

There is a direct causal relationship between being able to say to a delusional patient "no doctor would ever kill a patient" and "doctors only kill patients when the following legal requirements are met". The first is relatively easy and leads to schizophrenics taking more medication and preventing the need for involuntary commitment.

"And yet you write about involuntary psychiatric commitment which you force on people. More lies, more hypocrisy, as expected from your parasitic profession. You are enemies worth harming, and we will find ways to harm you."

Actually no, my profession can only provide life saving treatment until such time as guardian authorizes further treatment (some states allow me apply a "reasonableness" standard as to what a guardian would do until a specific one is found). Guardianship is a LEGAL endeavor; when you are involuntarily committed it is not me exercising legal authority. It is the courts. And should you wish to dispute that guardianship, it is the courts which you sue. My opinion speaks only to competency; autonomy is a legal matter for legal entities. A physicians' opinion is neither sufficient (legal orders or next of kin are required) nor necessary (cops, for instance, can sign statements of belief) to mandate involuntary psychiatric commitment.

A psychiatrist is indeed part of the process, but not sufficient on their own. At any point you can argue that you deserve to make your own choices, at which point you have to convince the judge.

These people are weak socialists. Real men don't cry for their mamas. They celebrate liberty and freedom with every last breath.

I know I won't cry out for my mother when I die, but I can't say the trade off is worth it.

The best words are:
"Impeach the m*therf*cker!!!"

“Who is John Galt?”

I would hope my relatives' last words would be about some hidden store of cash they had.

My uncle said "father" before he died; he had dementia. He did say in a lucent moment one thing that shocked me: in the Greek old folks home, which stunk of urine and feces and had insane people yelling, though it was considered a high-end retirement home (at 1.5k Euro a month): "I would not put my enemy in this place". Then the next minute he was uttering gibberish or stuff from fifty years ago (his short term memory was gone, only the long term memory remained). I could not help it, as I was not living in GR and he had no surviving next of kin. I did get half his millions in Euro that he stuffed in his house (the domestic help got the other half, and would have found it all but for me going there just in time).

What will MarginalRevolution posters remember when they are going senile? The IS-LM curves maybe?

Bonus trivia: in Greece this week, the compromise for FYROM is to call it "Northern Macedonia", which in my mind (I don't care about this issue, just Macedonia is fine with me) is the worst possible name as it implies to me that there's a "Southern Macedonia" and thus indirectly puts a claim on Greek lands south of the border. The worse possible 'compromise' IMO but the Tsipris government is OK with it. Only the in Balkans, where a page of history is worth a volume of logic as justice Holmes once said in another context.

Your description of Greek old age homes equates to US nursing homes, like the one my uncle died in. And, I "preserved" his estate similar to your story.

Re: last words. Now, very few people, aside from health care pros, are present at deathbeds. the violent deaths often involve extreme pain and shock.

It's what the patients say before the last moments. My younger brother died February 2018. While he was in hospital awaiting a liver transplant, he told me: It's OK to cry and that I should be happy/happier. I thought that was meaningful considering he was looking death in the face.

Anyhow, I'm a 12 year-old trapped in a 68 year-old body. I still complete NYT crossword puzzles and get most answers right on "Jeopardy." I still put three, quick rounds on target, off-hand at 50 yards. However, there are instances where I get up to do something and forget what it was, often because I have to take a pee - enlarged prostate!

What's the market for adult diapers?

Thanks D the B for that. You're young at heart. And three quick rounds at 50 yards sounds like a marksman, as a military guy in Thailand once told me (contrary to the movies, it's hard to hit any target with a handgun after 20 yards I'm told, which is one reason those NYC police end up firing several hundred rounds just to hit a person, that, and obesity and incompetence probably).

I had the opportunity to watch one guy at an outdoor range shoot at an orange skeet that made it to the hillside about 100 yards away. He was definitely taking aim (probably 10 to 15 seconds between shots). He was hitting easily within a foot of the skeet and on of his shot actually moved it -- not sure if that was clipped by the bullet or just dirt kicked up.

I'm pretty sure he will hit most targets at 20 to 30 yards.

But yes, the short barrel makes aiming more difficult.


Tony, are you nuts? (Macadamia nuts. I saw on a jar of Greek Nutella back in the 1990s: "Macedonia is not Greece" which I thought should have read 'Macedonia is not nuts')

Dementia is a special case, although we are reaching such old age that we are getting more people with it... but life's end is not so bad for many:

Dying Is Unexpectedly Positive. By Amelia Goranson et al.Psychological Science, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/06/dying-is-unexpectedly-positive.html

"Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?"


Puppet remix:

"Deathbed aphorisms and declarations of love for one’s country are exceptions or inventions."

Yet, famous Brazilian president Afonso Penna, the only minister of the former Empire of Brazil to become president, said "God, Fatherland, Family" to summon up his ideas before dying. His words have inspired generations of Brazilians.

... Or he didn't and those words were put there by his political friends, relatives or some writer. You do understand that since deaths are not usually seen, a few people present (usually one) can basically tell any tall tale. That's exactly why the above article is written.

"Or he didn't and those words were put there by his political friends, relatives or some writer."

It would have been impossible. His dying words were reported by his own personal physician Doctor Miguel Couto, one of Brazil's leading doctors. He was president of Brazil's Medical Academy for twenty years, a member of Brazil's Academy of Letters and helped to write Brazil's third Constitution. He wouldn't have lied.

Who said anything about lying? There were "last words". They were just not the actual last words, he said. They were most likely discussed for a long time maybe even with the deceased. Those were the correct last words, that should be written in history. Perhaps even by Afonso himself. That does not mean that matter less, the symbolism is not lost.

I am not arguing that they couldn't be his last words, but cynically/critically thinking about the thing, they were more likely to be written specially for the moment than uttered on the last breath.

He whispered the words into his doctor's ears with what may be his last breath when he was at the threshold of death. He certainly was on his deathbed and he had little time or strenght for small talk.

If only Brazilians had been inspired by the utterances of someone like Milton Friedman and not a man clearly suffering from dementia. :-)

He was not suffering from dementia at all. According to Brazilian historian Mr. Rodrigo Elias, he died of excessive work, something like Japan's karoshi. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karōshi

“Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon!”

mama or mebbe they are actually saying Oumuamua

My mother's last words were, "I want it to be over," after her doctor asked what she wanted. She was suffering as her organs broke down after a ten-year illness. The doctor started to cry, turned to my sister and me and told us they were going to give her morphine to keep her comfortable. She died three days later.

My father’s last words were: “What did the doctor say?” Delivered to my wife while he was lying in a hospital bed dying of the prostate cancer that he had been assured wouldn’t kill him. My mother later had dementia and couldn’t speak for the last years of her life.

My father's last words were - "don't waste money on cars, I'm ok"

Jack Bogle, who converted more people to capitalism than St. Paul converted to Christianity, said "I'm proud I am not a billionaire". Well, not exactly his last words, or maybe not even his actual words, but they would be if he were able to say them.

So sorry to hear that Bogle died.

Vinny Testaverde one said, "Back in the '80s and '90s, you could hit the quarterback low, you could hit the quarterback high. You could hit him pretty much late."

Death aphorisms? They come from the people meeting soon a firing squad, the noose or the guillotine.

The overwhelming winner by % will be:

The Shahada, said over and over until garbled and unintelligible

My mother would say the Our Father and Hail Mary over and over.

"Thomas Jefferson survives."


Who is tabulating the number of those expiring each day who recall only at the penultimate moment: "Maybe I should have made out a will . . . "?

Amazing numbers croak each day bound for parts unknown while the assets they leave behind go chiefly to non-caring government agencies and bureaus, crumbs to disaffected relatives, and/or leftovers to erstwhile friends, former associates, and concerned attorneys.

Do egalitarian socialists commend the practice of executing last wills and testaments, or are they committed to state appropriation of assets when their disposition is not otherwise accounted for by law?

My grandfather died suddenly in his sleep. He never woke up. Thank God.

My other grandfather collapsed from a heart attack on election day 2000, he had volunteered in. He never found out who won. Thank God.

I suspect the other urban myth regarding death we (at least in the USA) probably live with is the "died quietly in their sleep" view. I suspect most of the time that means someone caring or living with the dying person went to bed and woke the next morning to find the person had died.

From my experience with both my parents (and a bit with my uncle and cousin) like or not our body simply does fight to the very end. Moreover, when that end comes the person seems to be very aware a large step is being taken into an unknown. Undoubtedly the physical efforts are painful and stressful. I suspect the mental state varies. But I don't think many actually sleep though the process of dying.

I know for a fact that my uncle died peacefully in his sleep. His passengers, on the other hand....

It's good to hear regarding the breathing bit -- I would hope that the experience due to localized damage does translate to the death bed setting. Unless you know more here I don't think we have the knowledge or tools yet to truly settle the question of over or under assessing. Thanks for the comment though.

We know some more stuff from "near death experiences", but generally most of those either happen during sleep-like states (minimal memory formation) or the patient awakened.

I concur that we cannot know for sure, but it would be a very odd thing for a patient to lose function in the apneustic center, etc. and enter agonal breathing without also losing all the supratentorial functions (e.g. consciousness) from a generalized process (e.g. hypoxemia). It happens, very rarely, with extremely localized strokes in the pons & medulla, but in general I would bet an awful lot on the brain shutting down in a hierarchical fashion with consciousness going first from a generalized process leading to "peaceful" death.

This is, after all, what happens when the brain otherwise is unable to get oxygen. Your blood pressure drops, you lose consciousness, buckle to the floor, and then revive when your heart no longer pumps against gravity.

It might be different, and competent individuals may have some terror just from falling asleep/unconscious ... but I do know several reflexive systems that look terrible that come out during the dying process. I have even seen those in people who lack most of their brain (i.e. Head GSW -> organ donor).

My grandfather was groaning and moving his limbs, and I was told it was a panic reaction to his increasingly poor oxygenation. The doctor recommended morphine to calm him down. From what I could observe, my grandfather died high.

"Deathbed aphorisms and declarations of love for one’s country are exceptions or inventions."

Some of them may be inventions. This is being too literal, though. What people really mean by "last words" are the last coherent thing the person said a few hours or days before dying, not the literal last mumbled thing at the moment of expiration.

"a hospice nurse says that most dying men call for ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mama’,"

Sorry to double-post, I have a thought on this line also. The reason the word for mother is "mama" is because that's the easiest distinguishable word for baby's to make. Similarly, it's the last word someone in the very final stages of physical decline can say. It doesn't necessarily mean the person is thinking about his mother, it's just the last intelligible sound he can make his mouth produce.

It's sad that people aren't more creative with their parting words. Perhaps Jordan Peterson can prepare a talk on how to address this failing.

Not rosebud?

"That Drudge poll .. gasp .. may not have been completely honest."

I'm not sure I follow the point. Presumably, death bed comments are so notable *because* they're rare. If there were more of them, I would be more inclined to believe they were all apocryphal.

mebbe Heather Heywig was the lodestar?
cough,cough, aaaaaaaaargh

cough cough
shoulda got the free measles vaccine
damn itchy rash, fever
cough cough

wtf baltimore

this year we are gonna
subvert the media
get better at guitar and
f*** with canada

Donald's last words:
"Nancy ... Pelosi ... Nancy Pelosi"

No doubt also depends on what is precipitating the dying to die. Having been near the edge myself on one recent occasion, I can report that part of the process is to lose interest in almost everything, include living versus not. Of course, as I said, it would depend on what is precipitating the process. My last words would have have been (if they had been "last"), "don't worry about me, I'm ok." In fact, that's exactly what I'm planning to say, although not in English.

Napoleonic battlefields were said to have all the dying saying "mama" so I believe this.

maman -also sounds a lotta lika oumuamua

Sam Harris' podcast with Frank Ostaseski is very interesting: https://samharris.org/podcasts/the-lessons-of-death/

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