Is “death rattle” horrible for dying person?

This is mostly a question for Bill, our resident hospice RN, but anyone is welcome to comment!

There’s an article in last weekend’s LA Times* about a woman whose husband was on hospice. She was very upset and he was very upset that his death didn’t come more quickly. When he did begin to actively die, he had a “death rattle.” She described the death rattle as “horrible.” And she described her husband’s death as “barbaric” — perhaps both because of the death rattle and because he didn’t die as quickly as he wanted. (I’m not sure.)

I remember when my father was nearing death, I was very worried about the “fish out of water” breathing that sometimes occurs with people. Seems like I was reassured at the time that this sort of breathing is far more disturbing to the bystanders than to the person experiencing it.

Bill – do we have any information as to whether the “death rattle” is “horrible” for the dying person? Does the “death rattle” indicate a person is suffering? Can Roxanol (liquid morphine) be given at the time? Does that resolve the “rattle”? What can bystanders do when they hear the “death rattle”?


* … 125.column