Here we'll explore the biological process of death and also clear up some basic questions about the science of it all.
Find out how the mind reacts to death and how people try to cope with it.
Death is treated very differently all around the world. Here we'll discuss the various religious and cultural differences.
Discover the social implications of death and how death affects society.
Discuss death related topics with other surfers.
Mortified by Semantics:
Definitions of Different Types of Death
We all have a notion of what death is. When a plant is shriveled and dry, we know it has died. When you can use similar words to describe a human, that person is dead as well. Most of our understanding, though, is usually vague. This is partly due to the ambiguity of the very word "death." For example, one can say "My car battery has died," or "Disco is dead." (editor's note: The latter is a phrase that should be used loosely and often. Put away the leisure suit, man.) A child can stop "dead" in his tracks, a song can be played "to death," or a joke can "die." But even in the literal sense regarding the death of a living organism, we possess a vague sense rather than a clear definition. Sure, if we come upon someone lying on the sidewalk, unmoving, without pulse or respiration and stone cold, we know that person is quite dead. Where that idea gets fuzzy is when the state of the organism isn't as cut and dry. When a person is unconscious, immobile, blood and oxygen being artificially supported, but there is still some electrical activity in the brain, is this person dead? Such a question is still in debate. Some say as long as the heart is pumping, there is life. Others assert that brain activity draws that important line. Debate of this issue is almost always comes from a family member entering a vegetative state, such as coma. Current law sides with brain function-- the absence of brain activity is the point at which one is officially "dead".
Definitions of Types of Death
In a practical sense, however, the exact moment at which a person is "dead" is an argument over a very fine point indeed. The fact remains that humans do die. Death does eventually occur at some point. But there are many types of death, and it's good to know some definitions.
Necrobiosis. Individual cells die all the time. The cells in your body today weren't there years ago, except your nerve cells. Necrobiosis is the death of cells over the lifespan of an organism. After necrobiosis, a cell is replaced with a new one in a continual process throughout a human's life.
Necrosis. When many cells die at once, it isn't the normal continual necrobiosis of life. Necrosis is the death of an organ or part of an organ. In medicine this is called infarction (yes, that's how it's supposed to be spelled.)
Clinical Death. No breathing, no circulation, and no brain activity characterize clinical death. But that's only half. The other side, the most integral part which separates clinical death from somatic death, is that clinical death begins at the very onset of the symptoms of death, say right after cardiac arrest has cause the heart to stop. It lasts for about four minutes, and it is the interval in which life can be brought back through CPR. After a short few minutes, death is permanent, because the state of the body has gone from clinical death to...
Brain Death. A brain deprived of oxygen survives for 3 to 7 minutes, making it the first organ to die when circulation or respiration ceases or is impeded, whatever the cause of trouble may be. After a few minutes, the brain can't be brought back to life by any means available today. This is brain death, and it's the reason why clinical death, the period in which a person can be resuscitated, is so short. Once the brain goes, the heart doesn't know how to pump and the lungs don't know how to breath.
Somatic death. Eventually an organism ceases to be in the process of dying and proceeds to be dead. Somatic death is the death-- the permanent, irreversible death-- of an organism as a whole. In humans it is usually after brain death, as the other vital organs are unable to function without the brain. With modern technology, though, one can be brain dead but still have circulation and respiration artificially. In such a case one isn't somatically dead because other organs are still alive. Once artificial support is removed somatic death occurs, because the person is then entirely and completely inactive with regard to brain, circulation, and respiration.
Copyright 2001. Created by a Thinkquest team.
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