You know how some character has been sick for ages and ages and ages, and how their death will be dragged out for days/weeks/months/years, until by the time it finally happens, people are no longer shocked, or no longer even care? The dying person might even Long-Lasting Last Words, what with that impossibly long Final Speech.
The causes are varied. It might just be because Death Is Dramatic and the dying person happens to be a major or important secondary character. In terms of illnesses, it might be a Soap Opera Disease, a vaguely-defined, deadly, chronic disease, or an Incurable Cough of Death. Deathly medical conditions might force a character to rely on artificial means and live on borrowed time for a while. Alternatively, it's an Almost Dead Guy, who must do their bit to drive the plot forward before they are allowed to die. This kind of situation also comes in handy for Downer Endings.
Related to Longest Pregnancy Ever, another condition that lasts longer than it should. Might overlap with Your Days Are Numbered, which is when a character knows they'll die. Contrast Kill Him Already! and Get It Over With, when The Hero stands over a defeated enemy, respectively causing other people or the villain to urge her to just eliminate the threat permanently. Compare Inverse Dialogue Death Rule, when a dying, important character gets several lines of dialogue before kicking it.
- Fist of the North Star: Toki's said to be terminally ill when introduced. Later, he shortens his own lifespan in the hopes of getting strong enough to fight Raoh. Even when mortally wounded by Ryuga, he's still capable of walking while carrying a grown man.
- Death of Dido: Inspired by Virgil's Aeneid, Guercino captures the prolonged, tragic, and epic death of Queen Dido by impalement on an immolation pyre. Her subjects are mourning her, her sister Anna is inconsolable, her lover Aeneas' leaving ship can be seen in the distance, and Goddess Juno is compassionately releasing the queen's soul from her suffering.
- Spider-Man: Aunt May has been on the verge of death for six decades.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Hoster Tully lasts more than two books before succumbing —and he spends all of his appearances delirious from painkillers. In a possible acknowledgment of this, by the time he dies, his daughter has become inured enough to death that she barely reacts either.
- Aeneid: In Virgil's version, Queen Dido decides to commit suicide for having betrayed her late husband's memory by falling in love with Aeneas. She recruits her sister Anna's help in building a pyre under the pretense of getting rid of everything that reminds her of her lover. Dido lies down in the pyre but gets impaled by one of Aeneas' swords before she can even immolate herself. Anna rushes to her side and embraces her while everybody else mourns their dying queen. Then, Goddess Juno is sent to release Dido's spirit from her suffering in a dramatic scene. On top of that, Aeneas glimpses the glow of Dido's funeral pyre from afar as he's shipping off Cartague. Thus making this one Older Than Feudalism.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003): Laura Roslin's illness only becomes majorly visible on two occasions. In her very first scene and when she's being informed that she has cancer and spent the entire run of the show dying in varying degrees.
- Black Adder: The first season has a Shout-Out to The Importance of Being Earnest when it mentions a character who has been on his deathbed for so long that everyone is thoroughly sick of it and wants him to either recover or die, but "it's this shilly-shallying that's so undignified". That said, given that the man in question is an extremely wealthy noble, both potential claimants to his property would much rather he died as soon as possible... provided his will says the right thing, of course.
- Deadliest Catch:
- If you're a cynical viewer. The producer took great care to say before the season started that it was Phil's decision to keep filming because he wanted his story to be complete, regardless of the ending.
- Subverted with Jake Anderson, as his father's corpse is found after the filming of the seventh season ends. This means that the show could not exploit the angst. If his Twitter account posting is any indication, Jake seems kind of bitter that the show focused as much as it did on him losing loved ones as it did.
- Jake's uncle, Nick, has a mind for this when Jake's sister dies. After talking with Sig and deciding that he should be the one to tell him, he turns to the cameraman and says point-blank "I don't want you filming this."
- Saturday Night Live: The running gag "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead!" early on is intended as a parody of the ongoing news coverage of his health before his death, which the writers thought had verged on this.
- St. Elsewhere: Dr. Auschlander is diagnosed with terminal cancer in the pilot episode, and residents bet on when he's going to croak. He survives 6 seasons of crises, chemotherapy, accidents, and the deaths of several major characters, before dying in the final episode. (Or did he...?)
- Crankshaft: The slow, agonizing death of Crankshaft's former neighbor from complications of Alzheimer's.
- For Better or for Worse: Grandpa Jim gets progressively sicker and sicker with strokes and heart attacks to the point there have been several "fakeouts" of his death. He has yet another heart attack at the end of the strip, on the day of Liz's wedding. Yet he never actually dies until the age of 89 —somehow surviving two more years (he was born in 1921) after the end of the strip!
- Funky Winkerbean: Lisa spends months slowly dying of a relapsing cancer. Every so often, there's a Hope Spot where it looks like she'd recover, but eventually, she dies and the creator initiate a Time Skip to the future.
- Gasoline Alley: Walt who, in order to keep up with the strip's real-time aging, has hung around to be over 120 years old, and ever more decrepit each year. An occasionally-stated fact is that he's the last surviving World War I vet in America.
- The Importance of Being Earnest: Quoth Lady Bracknell about Algernon's "sick friend" Bunbury —who Algernon made up as an excuse to avoid unwanted social engagements, and has been using as an excuse for years. "I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he is going to live or to die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd."
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: Solid Snake starts off already rapidly aging and coughing, proceeds to get the shit kicked out of him at the end of every mission, gets fried, shot, blown up, beaten, injected repeatedly for self-medication, and doesn't quit smoking. It's admirable how much punishment he can take, but Hideo Kojima is definitely punishing Snake in as many ways as humanly possible.
- Hospitals occasionally have to deal with these sorts of people in the real world —continually sick with some unknown illness which will almost certainly kill them (or believing themselves to be so). The term used for such unfortunate figures is GOMER, aka "Get Out of My Emergency Room".
- And even outside of hospitals, some people hold on surprisingly long before succumbing, whether to extreme old age, terminal illness, or injuries that are ultimately mortal but not quite severe enough to be quick about it.
- This can be very much Truth in Television with gunshot wounds, which can be a lot weirder and more varied in effect than most people think; you're just as likely to keep running around for hours, fully cognizant and capable of action, after being shot in the chest as you are to die instantly. It all depends on a huge amount of factors like where precisely you were hit, the type of bullet or gun used, your own physical attributes, how deep the bullet goes, and more. As any cop, soldier, or gun-owner can tell you, there is no such thing in real life as shooting to wound; if you have to pull a gun on someone and shoot, you shoot until they are no longer a threat (i.e., dead). Failure to do so will probably result in the person you're shooting at dying anyways (it is all too easy to hit a blood artery or major organ, even when trying not to), but not before they take advantage of your restraint to shoot you.