What allows someone in the last stages of dying to prolong their life until some unfinished business is completed? Dr. Campbell thinks it could have something to do with a hormonal stimulus (via STAT News). People in the final stages of death “probably have some kind of hormonal stimulus that’s just a driver to keep them going. Then, when whatever event they were waiting for happens, the stimulus goes away, and there must be some kind of relaxing into it that then allows them to die.”
Charles F. von Gunten, a pioneer in the field of hospice and palliative medicine, agreed. “What people will do for one another in the name of love is extraordinary. I think of it as a gift when it happens,” he told The Washington Post.
However, there might be something else that happens that gives dying people a chance to enjoy what time they have left with loved ones before they die. Healthcare professionals call this “rallying” or “the surge,” as explained by licensed hospice nurse, Julie McFadden, who goes by the name Hospice Nurse Julie on YouTube. “A patient will look like they are actively dying or getting very close to death … And then suddenly, they perk up and they start acting like their old selves again. They may be hungry, eat, talk, laugh, joke around, be a little sassy with their family … They frequently do this and then pass away usually the next day.” Again, this isn’t understood well by healthcare workers but it does give loved ones a chance to say goodbye.