Music-thanatology is a professional field within the broader subspecialty of palliative care. It is a musical/clinical modality that unites music and medicine in end-of-life care.
The music-thanatologist utilizes usually harp and voice at the bedside to lovingly serve the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the dying and their loved ones with prescriptive music.
Prescriptive music is live music that responds to the physiological needs of the patient moment by moment. For example, by observing vital signs, such as heart rate, respiration and temperature, the music-thanatologist provides music that is tailored to each specific situation. The warmth of this living music can bring solace, dignity, and grace to those nearing the ultimate journey at the end of life.
This music can help to ease physical symptoms, such as pain, restlessness, agitation, sleeplessness, and labored breathing. It offers an atmosphere of serenity and comfort that can be profoundly soothing for those present.
Difficult emotions, such as anger, fear, sadness, and grief, can be relieved as listeners rest into a musical presence of beauty, intimacy, and compassion.
Music-Thanatology Association International. “What is Music-Thanatology.” Internet. Accessed on July 5, 2016.