Darwin, Charles

Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882) is widely considered the greatest naturalist of the nineteenth century. His pioneering work in the theory of evolution wrought a revolution in the study of the origins and nature of plant and animal life.

Days of the Dead

Days of the Dead, a religious observation celebrated throughout Mexico on November 2, honors the memories of departed family members. The farther south one travels in Mexico, the more elaborate the celebration becomes.

Dead Ghetto

The concept of the "dead ghetto" derives from Jean Baudrillard (b. 1929), a contemporary French philosopher, in his book Symbolic Exchange and Death (1993).

Deathbed Visions and Escorts

Deathbed visions are apparitions; that is, appearances of ghostly beings to the dying near the time of their death. These beings are usually deceased family members or friends of the one who is dying.

Death Certificate

A death certificate is the official document that declares a person is dead. Death certificates serve two purposes: they prevent murder cover-ups by restricting those who can complete them for non-natural deaths to trained officials who generally have great latitude on whom they perform postmortem examinations, and they provide public health statistics.

Death Education

The term death education refers to a variety of educational activities and experiences related to death and embraces such core topics as meanings and attitudes toward death, processes of dying and bereavement, and care for people affected by death. Death education, also called education about death, dying, and bereavement, is based on the belief that death-denying, death-defying, and death-avoiding attitudes and practices in American culture can be transformed, and assumes that individuals and institutions will be better able to deal with death-related practices as a result of educational efforts.

Death Instinct

The pioneering Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was a person with few illusions about human nature and civilization. In fact, he had been relentlessly exposing what he saw as the hidden strivings and conflicts beneath the mask of civilization.

Death Mask

A death mask is a wax or plaster cast of a person's face taken while he or she is alive or after their death. Usually the mask is created after the death of the person because of the danger imposed by its materials.

Death Squads

Death squads are generally state-sponsored terrorist groups, meaning that the government advocates death by groups of men who hunt down and kill innocent victims. Death squads are often paramilitary in nature, and carry out extrajudicial (outside the scope of the law or courts) killings, executions, and other violent acts against clearly defined individuals or groups of people (Campbell 2000).

Death System

Death system, a concept introduced by Robert Kastenbaum in 1977, is defined as "the interpersonal, sociocultural, and symbolic network through which an individual's relationship to mortality is mediated by his or her society" (Kastenbaum 2001, p. 66).

Definitions of Death

In the past, death has often been defined with a few confident words. For example, the first edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica informed its readership that "DEATH is generally considered as the separation of the soul and body; in which sense it stands opposed to life, which consists in the union thereof" (1768, v.


Dehumanization is the process of stripping away human qualities, such as denying others their individuality and self-esteem. With the rapid increase in medical technology many basic human qualities surrounding the care of the dying have been lost.

Demographics and Statistics

Julius Richmond, the former Surgeon General of the United States, is purported to have said, "Statistics are people with their tears wiped dry" (Cohen 2000, p. 1367).


Disasters are stressful life situations that result in great terror, property damage, physical harm, and often death. Calamity and catastrophe, synonymous terms for these traumatic events, often involve extreme forces of nature like earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes.

Do Not Resuscitate

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders are medical directives to withhold efforts to revive a patient who has a cardiac or respiratory arrest. DNR orders came into use in the 1970s as a response to the widespread practice of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).


Drowning is defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics as death resulting from suffocation within twenty-four hours of submersion in water. Near-drowning applies to all other victims, whether or not they survive.

Durkheim, Émile

Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) is considered one of the most influential figures in the founding of modern sociology. Born in the eastern part of France, Durkheim descended from a long line of rabbis and trained to follow in their footsteps.

Dying, Process of

It might seem self-evident that death is the outcome of the process of dying. The reality, however, is not so simple.

Egyptian Book of the Dead

There is probably no text in the popular imagination more closely associated with the ancient Egyptian beliefs about life after death than the work popularly known as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, also referred to as The Book of Coming Forth by Day. This work received its name from the fact that many of the earliest specimens to reach Renaissance Europe—centuries before Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs in 1824—had been found next to mummies in burials, a practice that also gave rise to the misconception that the Book of the Dead was an authoritative scripture equivalent to the Bible.

Elvis Sightings

For decades following his death, reported sightings of Elvis Presley, the acclaimed "King of Rock and Roll," persist. As is the case with religious saints, it is Elvis's death day and not his birthday that receives ritual attention, attracting tens of thousands of individuals to Memphis, Tennessee, for Elvis Week.

Emergency Medical Technicians

The struggle between life and death is the fundamental responsibility of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professional; EMS systems provide a medical safety net for the public. Since the inception of the EMS profession, paramedics have received billions of calls from Americans in need of emergency care.

Empathy and Compassion

The word compassion comes from Latin and means "to bear with" or "to suffer with." Compassion and empathy are essential human qualities that allow one to feel, understand, and respond to the suffering of others. They enable individuals to enter into and maintain relationships of caring.