Ice chips, death and calm.

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Author: Neil Seeman
Date: Feb. 28, 2022
Publisher: CMA Impact Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,034 words
Lexile Measure: 1160L

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Only now, almost a year later, am I able to separate my grief over the death of my father from how important it was for me to be there and to care for him at the end.

"More ice chips, please," was his repeated request to me in his last days.

My late father, Philip Seeman--a pharmacologist who dedicated his scientific career to investigating how the molecular structure and function of dopamine receptors were involved in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia--survived on ice chips and teaspoonfuls of ice cream during the final days of his life. He had been in hospital, with family visits forbidden because of COVID-19, but was mercifully permitted to die at home.

When he asked me for ice chips, I was able to bring him some pleasure, if only briefly. His eyes flickered with joy. Since I was five, he had taught me about his area of scientific inquiry: brain dopamine. Dopamine, which is released when you encounter something delightful, is the pleasure molecule, the molecule of elation, risk, reward, motivation and movement, learning and memory, and of addiction and psychosis. It confers salience to an experience or a sensation --in this case, his thirsty tongue meeting ice-chip water molecules.

My father's laboratory had isolated and cloned several of the receptors for dopamine. That was his life's work. (1)

When my father asked me for ice chips on the day before he died, I remembered our many discussions about death and dying. We had discussed death as a distant event, to be reflected on, anticipated,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A694380457