Very few individuals can postpone their death

Researchers who analyzed data on the timing of more than 1 million deaths over more than a decade say they found no evidence that &to=http:// 19/94/377/13117_wonderBoy.html ' target=_blank>cancer patients can "cheat death" to intentionally postpone the end of their lives beyond some milestone event or day.

The study by scientists at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is the latest and largest to discredit the theory that people can "will" themselves to live longer.

"I think all of us may know or have heard of someone 'hanging on' through the holidays or trying to live until an important occasion. But the figures just don't bear this out as something that people can really do," said Donn Young, a biostatistician and research scientist at OSU, writes the Seattle Post.

Death takes no holiday, according to a study that challenges the widely held notion that dying people can somehow hold on until after &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Christmas or other important events in their lives.

Donn Young studied more than 300,000 cancer patients and found that the supposed phenomenon is mostly based on wishful thinking and selective memories.

"If there was an effect, you'd see a dip before," says Young, "and an increase after."

But there was no dip, and no significant difference in the proportion of cancer patients dying before an event and those dying after, according to the study, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, reports the Chicago Sun Times.

According to the, Young's study does not rule out the possibility that a very few individuals are able, by some unexplained process, to postpone death until it is convenient. But for them not to show up in his study, they would have to make up less than 1% of the deaths, he says.

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