End-of-Life Issues

Before the 1950s, end-of-life decisions were simpler than they are today. Most people died in their own homes, surrounded by family and loved ones.


Should we fear death? A very famous argument of why we should not was offered some 2,300 years ago by the philosopher Epicurus.


For hundreds if not thousands of years, the epitaph has been a significant part of the death ritual. Before the development of written language and adequate tools for carving, the grave was marked with such items as sticks and rocks.


The word euthanasia translates from Greek roots as "good death." The Oxford English Dictionary states that the original meaning, "a gentle and easy death," has evolved to mean "the actions of inducing a gentle and easy death." This definition is consistent with contemporary use of the term. For example, the Canadian Senate Special Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide defined euthanasia as "the deliberate act undertaken by one person with the intention of ending the life of another person in order to relieve that person's suffering where that act is the cause of death" (Senate of Canada 1995, p.


Cemeteries exist as "resting places," and the norm of many cultures is that the dead should not be disturbed. However, for a variety of reasons, they are disturbed through the process of exhumation (removal of a corpse from the earth).

Exposure to the Elements

Although humans are among the most adaptable of the earth's creatures with one of the broadest territories of settlement, their ability to survive extreme temperatures is limited. Death can occur by exposure to extreme heat or cold.


Humans are the only species aware of not only of their own eventual personal deaths but of their collective demise as well. This latter insight came late in human history—a product of evolutionary theory and of paleontological and archaeological research.


Every historical era has suffered the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse mentioned in the Bible— famine, death, war, and the plague. Famine in the modern era is thought to be caused as much by other factors than food shortages due to nature.

Feifel, Herman

American psychologist Herman Feifel was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 4, 1915. He is internationally recognized as a pioneering figure in the modern death movement.


The availability of firearms is clearly associated with an increased risk of homicide, suicide, and deaths from firearm-related accidents. However, there is an active debate in the United States on the right to own and bear arms and the government's role in controlling access to firearms.

Folk Music

Folk music entertains, tells or supports a story, and is transmitted from generation to generation. It is the music of the common person as well as the wealthy.

Forensic Medicine

Forensic medicine deals with the application of scientific medical knowledge to the administration of law, to the furthering of justice, and to the legal relations of the medical practitioner.

Frankl, Viktor

Viktor Frankl, founder of logotherapy, also known as the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy, developed a paradigm in psychology that focuses on the importance of meaning in life. Viktor Frankl was born in 1905 in Vienna, Austria.

Freud, Sigmund

In 1856 Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, was born above a blacksmith shop in the Moravian town of Freiberg, his father an unsuccessful wool merchant. The family moved to Leipzig, then to Vienna, but continued to experience economic hardship.

Funeral Industry

The American funeral industry emerged in the aftermath of the Civil War, picking up steam at the turn of the twentieth century and gaining economic power by the middle of the century. Although the industry has long been the object of scathing public attacks, local funeral homes across the country have won respect as established and trusted places of business and as a source of comfort for families suffering from the loss of a close friend or relative.

Funeral Orations and Sermons

Since ancient times ceremonies and rites have been associated with the disposal of a corpse. The purposes of these rites were to honor the deceased, to plead for divine favor, and to console the bereaved.

Gender and Death

Males and females have different risks of dying with regard to both age at, and cause of, death. The male-female differential depends on level of economic development; however, there are some universal characteristics that appear to be biologically determined.

Gender Discrimination after Death

Does gender discrimination continue after death? A lifetime of inequality is arguably enough; how might inequality between the sexes perpetuate itself beyond the grave?

Gennep, Arnold Van

Arnold van Gennep was born in 1873 and educated at the Sorbonne. He died in 1957 without ever having been accepted into Émile Durkheim's circle of sociologists, a neglect the anthropologist Rodney Needham speaks of as "an academic disgrace" in his preface to The Semi-Scholars (Gennep 1967, xi).


Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish legal scholar who escaped Nazi Germany to safe haven in the United States, coined the word genocide in 1944. The word originally referred to the killing of people on a racial basis.

Ghost Dance

The Ghost Dance was the central rite of a messianic Native American religious movement in the late nineteenth century. It indirectly led to the massacre of some 250 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890, marking an end to the Indian wars.


Ghost lore has a long and colorful history. The word ghost has been in use since the late sixteenth century.