Can I have a scientific viewpoint on this question please.

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MickyMacgraw | 15:25 Thu 04th Nov 2010 | Science
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I'm a medical student.
Whilst on the journey of my studies, i've come across this a few times.
The human "Will" to live is an intersting subject, covering many areas of medicine, from pathology all the way to psychology.
Concerning the actual WANT to live, or keeping ourselves alive, the human body has a self preservation system. It stops us from harming ourselves. Meaning you can't hold your breath and suffocate yourself, or pick up a knife and plunge it into your own chest, or jump off a bridge into water and allow yourself to drown. However, under certain circumstances, this may be possible, such as during severe mental illness, or during extreme stress.
Everybody reacts to stress in different ways.
Some can take it in their stride and carry on life as usual. Others find difficulty in dealing with it, and feel helpless (which ironically creates more stress) and can lead to depression.
Medically speaking, the will to live concerns our mental and physical state.
In history, there have been instances when a group of people have been stuck in extreme circumstances, like being stranded in a desert, or in a jungle. Reports have often surfaced that the strength of a person to keep themselves moving, or reminding oneself that "I will get through this" has had such a positive effect that survivors have emerged from situations when others, with similar levels of resources (food, water, shelter, heat etc) have perished.
A cancer patient riddled with tumors, may survive for months against all medical expectations, due to mental strength, or physically being healthy and being able to cope. On the other hand a patient with a similar disease process, with less mental strength or possessing a less than healthy body, may survive half the time. Soon, the various internal sytems start to reach a point where they cannot function well enough to keep the body alive, and therefore, will simply shut down. I'm sure everyone's come across the phrases renal failure, or pulmonary failure, or heart failure.
A person who is mentally stressed, CAN show signs of this stress in their body; for instance weight loss can be a sign that a person has either physical or mental illness. One individual may be able to stand with minimal clothing, in a cold place and never catch a cold, where as another may develop a cold. A persons internal environment (the state of the body inside) can be altered by the mind. The woman in qustion may have been so distressed by her sons pre mature death, that her bodies systems had become stressed to a point where they were no longer working correctly or efficiently. The mental stress on the anniversary of her sons death MAY have been enough to push her body over the edge, and go into complete shut down.
Post Traumatic Stress disorder, can manifest itself in ways such as this. War veterens hearing a fire cracker going off may trigger visions of being fired apon, or getting ill during the anniversary of a war they were involved in.

Elderly couples have often been reported to pass away, soon after each other. This has often been linked to similar processes i have described above.

The human mind is extremely comlex. The fact that we still do not know how memory is formed, or how the mind creates visions, despite advancing medical technology, shows we are quite far from fully understanding issues such as these.

I hope this helps.

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