The most basic aspects of life are those associated with bodily needs since meeting these needs are prerequisites for biological life and functioning. In his well-known hierarchy of needs, Maslow argued that satisfying bodily needs is the indispensable foundation on which all other needs are built. An example is a person who is experiencing intense pain. (S)he is unlikely to be able to focus on higher level needs such as social and spiritual interactions. Many people have known of others who are in such chronic, long-term pain that they are willing to do anything, including taking their own lives, if possible, to end their suffering.
While satisfying bodily needs and relieving physical distress are usually strong determinants of a person’s actions, this is not always true. In rare and selected cases, there are those who choose to try to subordinate their physical needs and distress to higher values or the greater good. Examples include those who endure physical torture for the sake of their beliefs and those who give up their lives willingly to protect others. People who take such action are so uncommon that we give them special titles - martyrs and heroes. In the same fashion, some dying individuals may accept greater pain or suffering so they may fulfill a greater need — to be close to those they love or to be “clearer headed.”
In conclusion, the first task in coping with dying is to address the physical needs of excretion, eating, drinking, breathing, and any physical distress such as intense pain, severe nausea, and repeated vomiting.