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Not Taught in Med School: Interpreting Dreams of the Dying

A hospice doctor's TEDx Talk about his research on end-of-life dreams

By Emily Gurnon

When Dr. Christopher Kerr was a young physician, he visited a patient he calls Tom, who was very ill. Outside the room, Kerr told a nurse they could try antibiotics — that Tom had more time.

“Nope, he’s dying,” the nurse replied, without even looking up.

How did she know? Kerr asked.

“Because he’s seen his deceased mother,” the nurse said.

Kerr, chief medical officer at Hospice Buffalo in New York, discovered he needed to learn more about what end-of-life experiences meant.

He then led a research team from the Palliative Care Institute in Cheektowaga, N.Y. in a long-term study on dreams and visions in the dying. Based on extensive interviews with people who were dying, they examined what their dreams and visions consisted of, whether they perceived them as positive or negative and whether the dreams might serve as a predictor of when death would come.

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In October 2015, after the results were published, Kerr gave a TEDx Talk about this for an audience at  Asbury Hall at Babeville, in downtown Buffalo.

For details on what the researchers found, read this Next Avenue story, "What the Dreams of the Dying Teach Us About Death."

Or watch the TEDx Talk here:

Emily Gurnon
Emily Gurnon is the former Senior Content Editor covering health and caregiving for Next Avenue. Her stories include a series of articles on guardianship abuse that was funded by the Journalists in Aging Fellows Program. She previously spent 20 years as an award-winning newspaper reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area and St. Paul. Reach her through her website. Read More
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