ABOUT MUSIC-THANATOLOGY

Music-thanatology is a palliative care modality that unites music and medicine in end of life care. The music-thanatologist brings harp and voice to the bedside, meeting fear, discomfort, and suffering with the therapeutic qualities of music.

The power of music as a healing modality was clearly known to the ancients and has been practiced for centuries in the healing rites of many indigenous cultures throughout the world. Music was an integral part of the healing rituals in the ancient Greek temples dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine.

Music was also used in the care of those dying in the monastery in Cluny, France starting in the 10th century. "Infirmary music" was offered as part of the ritual for those approaching death to provide comfort for the body and the soul. In the clinical environment of the modern medical setting, the warmth of living music can bring solace, dignity, and grace to those nearing the ultimate journey at the end of life.

A "vigil" refers to the time we spend with a patient (and family) while offering prescriptive musical deliveries at the bedside. Our time with the patient is spent in alternating periods of music and silence. This application of the prescriptive qualities of music and silence is based on information gathered about the patient prior to the vigil (including symptomatology, diagnosis, prognosis, medications administered, progression of disease process) and their current vital signs. The music is chosen to respond dynamically to the individual needs and symptoms of each patient.