Death and Dying: Shifts
-religion plays an important role in making it meaningful and for making guidelines
-in addition to the church, the family and community played major roles
-dying, death, and grieving came to be managed increasingly by medical professionals (doctors,
nurses, examiners, etc) and grief workers (social workers and psychologists). This all shifted in
the 20 century
-medical professionals tended to define death, dying, and grieving as medical problems that can
be cured by medical interventions. They recommended counselling and prescription drugs to
help with grieving.
-if someone thinks that they can no longer take care of themselves they consider themselves
dead, even though they’re biologically alive
Death as Symbolic Construction
-Death is an idea or concept. It’s something that our minds have constructed from our
experiences, guesswork, and even our ignorance.
-Death is subject to the same rules and limitations as any other concept that we may have.
-death varies because it is a symbolic construction
-death and dead are concepts that are still under construction and subject to challenge.
Changing Definitions of Death in the West
-the major turning point in modern history for this is world war 1 (Important!)
Conventional Signs of Death
-historically the death of a human has been determined by the absence of a heart beat and
breathing. Most deaths are determined by these absences today. If people are on respirators
and stuff like that, this is no longer what is used to determine if someone’s dead or not.
-Brain Death: brain stem functions are lost, but heart beat and other things like that can
-Clinical Death: heart beat, respiration, and brain activity stop for a short period of time
-Cellular Death: our living cells and tissues die. Some cells may survive for several hours, and
the neurons in the brain last for 5-7 minutes. The death of the neurons destroys intellectual
-Be able to distinguish between brain, clinical, and cellular death- only thing she wants us to
remember Advanced Signs of Death
-Algor mortis- fall of body temperature
-livor mortis- redness of face and finger tips- blood pooling
-Rigor mortis- rigidity of muscles
-outlines 4 levels that need to be addressed pertaining to the definition of death:
-level 1: defining death; what is death?
-his definition encompasses the deaths of animals and cells as well as
humans, and also cultures and societies.
-level 2: pinpointing the differences between life and death;