Chapter 3: Concerns as death nears

Will pain worsen as death nears?

I really was so scared for him. I hated the thought of him being in so much pain as he was dying. It helped to talk to his doctor about my fear and learn that options existed that would help him.

Pain is one of the more common symptoms experienced by those living with serious illness. Understandably, it is common to be concerned that pain will steadily worsen and be poorly controlled as death nears.

While it is true that pain is a common symptom in advanced illness that requires the full attention and expertise of healthcare providers, it tends to behave consistently for a person throughout an illness. Roll your mouse over the boxes below for two examples.

If pain difficulties have not been present…



… they are unlikely to develop near end of life.


If pain has been present but manageable…



… it will most likely continue to be manageable rather than escalate out of control.


Of course, sometimes an individual’s unique circumstances may result in increasing pain in the last weeks of life; however, this would be unusual. In such situations, it is imperative that the healthcare team aggressively pursue comfort with all of the urgency and expertise possible.

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