Doctor explains exactly what happens when you die – and what it feels like

Death is inevitable for us all but what actually happens is still a mystery – now a doctor who works with people on the edge of passing on has explained what he has seen with his patients

Little is known about what happens when someone dies
Little is known about what happens when someone dies

A palliative care doctor who has witnessed hundreds of people dying through their work has revealed what happens when someone dies and what it feels like for the unfortunate person passing on.

Despite the sad truth death is waiting for us all at the end, scientists know very little about the process around it.

Studies on the natural phenomenon are few and far between, which has left some medical experts publishing their own experiences with patients, reports the Express.

One expert on palliative care has stated that the process of dying usually happens around two weeks before the heart stops beating for the final time.

Everyones experience in their final moments is different


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Seamus Coyle, honorary research fellow at the University of Liverpool, talked through the process of dying in an article for The Conversation.

He said: “As an expert on palliative care, I think there is a process to dying that happens two weeks before we pass. During this time, people tend to become less well.

“They typically struggle to walk and become sleepier – managing to stay awake for shorter and shorter periods.

“Towards the last days of life, the ability to swallow tablets or consume food and drinks eludes them.

“It is around this time that we say people are ‘actively dying’, and we usually think this means they have two to three days to live.

“A number of people, however, will go through this entire phase within a day.

“And some people can actually stay at the cusp of death for nearly a week before they die, something which usually is extremely distressing for families

“So there are different things going on with different people and we cannot predict them.”

Reassuringly Mr Coyle said: “In general, it seems like people’s pain declines during the dying process.”


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What actually goes on in the body at the moment of death is largely unknown, but some studies predict a rush of chemicals are released from the brain.

These include endorphins, which can induce euphoric feelings in a person.

Mr Coyle said: “The actual moment of death is tricky to decipher. But a yet unpublished study suggests that, as people get closer to death, there is an increase in the body’s stress chemicals.

“For people with cancer, and maybe others, too, inflammatory markers go up.

“These are the chemicals that increase when the body is fighting an infection.

What happens after death is anyone’s guess


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“In general, it seems like people’s pain declines during the dying process.

“We don’t know why that is – it could be related to endorphins. Again, no research has yet been done on this.

“Ultimately, every death is different – and you can’t predict who is going to have a peaceful death. I think some of those I have seen die didn’t benefit from a rush of feel-good chemicals.

“I can think of a number of younger people in my care, for example, who found it difficult to accept that they were dying.

“They had young families and never settled during the dying process.”

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