Nationwide Japanese Survey About Deathbed Visions: “My Deceased Mother Took Me to Heaven”

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Objectives Primary aim was to clarify the prevalence and factors associated with the occurrence of deathbed visions, explore associations among deathbed visions, a good death, and family depression. Additional aim was to explore the emotional reaction, perception, and preferred clinical practice regarding deathbed visions from the view of bereaved family members. Methods A nationwide questionnaire survey was conducted involving 3964 family members of cancer patients who died at hospitals, palliative care units, and home. Results A total of 2827 responses (71%) were obtained, and finally 2221 responses were analyzed. Deathbed visions were reported in 21% (95% CIs, 19–23; n = 463). Deathbed visions were significantly more likely to be observed in older patients, female patients, female family members, family members other than spouses, more religious families, and families who believed that the soul survives the body after death. Good death scores for the patients were not significantly different between the families who reported that the patients had experienced deathbed visions and those who did not, whereas depression was more frequently observed in the former than latter, with marginal significance (20 vs. 16%, respectively, adjusted P = 0.068). Although 35% of the respondents agreed that deathbed visions were hallucinations, 38% agreed that such visions were a natural and transpersonal phenomenon in the dying process; 81% regarded it as necessary or very necessary for clinicians to share the phenomenon neutrally, not automatically labeling them as medically abnormal. Conclusions Deathbed vision is not an uncommon phenomenon. Clinicians should not automatically regard such visions as an abnormal phenomenon to be medically treated and rather provide an individualized approach.




Morita, T., Naito, A. S., Aoyama, M., Ogawa, A., Aizawa, I., Morooka, R., … Miyashita, M. (2016). Nationwide Japanese Survey About Deathbed Visions: “My Deceased Mother Took Me to Heaven.” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 52(5), 646-654.e5.

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